CHENNAI: Murthy, 57, who owns two properties in prime areas of the city, gets a fated phone call every two years. It’s his long-time tenant at the other end informing him to pay the caution deposit for the electricity bill.
Murthy has been religiously remitting the deposit for the past two decades, ever since he bought the property.
The retired bank manager however says it’s a protocol, but not necessarily one he completely agrees with. Venugopal, another house owner agrees vehemently.
He feels that this cautionary deposit is more suited for commercial establishments like small industries which have in the past ‘vanished’. “If I stop paying, my power connection gets cut. So why the deposit. Where am I going to run away from my property?” he questions.
“I’m not going to get the money in hand until I terminate the connection and the per-unit cost is only escalating with the years, so refund is a myth,” adds Murthy, hinting that landlords are neither running away nor looking to go back to stone-age implements as yet.
As per the Tamil Nadu Electricity Supply Code, this contentious caution deposit or the ACCD (Additional Current Consumption Deposit) is paid to a domestic establishment by a EB card-holder, physically or online. Technically, this would entitle the house owner to pay the amount, but in practice, this looks to be far and few with owners pushing it off as a tenant’s price to pay.
“When they draw up the rental agreement, it should specify if the ACCD is paid by the tenant, and adjusted in their rent or added in advance, as agreeable to both parties. TNEB does not have a say in this besides regulating the timely payment of the charges,” says a senior official with TNEB. This caution deposit is fixed every two-years in case of Low Tension (LT) and once a year in case of High Tension (HT) connections.
“I had no idea that I didn’t need to pay this at all! My landlord simply showed me the total amount of electricity I’d run up, and I mutely paid. This time around, the caution deposit caught my eye and I looked through the TNEB website to figure out what it even means. I don’t want to pay another `10,000 out of my wallet when it’s not my house,” says Michael,* who stays for rent in Porur.
But the caution deposit is riddled with more complications than just landlord-tenant spats.
The ACCD (deposit), which supposedly fluctuates to mimic our usage patterns, should ideally bill higher for a heavier consumption cycle and refund the balance next time around, if the same household decides to go easy on their electrical appliances and run a smaller bill.
“In principle, the extra from deposits should be adjusted in two upcoming bills and returned on request, but it keeps mounting in people’s accounts dormantly. As far as I’ve seen, that money neither reaches people, nor do the consumers even inquire about them,” says an official with TNEB (South-Chennai). With scorching summers and heftier bills on the cards for Chennaiites, maybe now is as good a time as any to figure out how our electricity bill is worked out.