Citizens Energy sues apartment complexes for $1.3M in unpaid bills

Citizens Energy Group has filed suit against the owners of three Indianapolis apartment complexes over more than $1.3 million in unpaid utility bills, alleging they defrauded both the energy giant and residents.

Berkley Commons IN LLC owns Berkley Commons Apartments at 8201 Madison Ave. Not-for-profit JPC Affordable Housing Foundation Inc. owns Capital Place Apartments at 4100 Continental Court and the Woods at Oak Crossing at 3120 Nobscot Drive.

“We are hopeful this legal action … will result in the repayment of past-due bills and payment of future bills, so residents of the apartment complexes have continued access to utility service without our remaining customers having to bear the cost of the apartment owners’ unpaid utility bills,” said Citizens President and CEO Jeffrey Harrison in a statement Tuesday.

Berkley Commons and JPC appear to be linked. In business and tax filings, the two entities share an address in New Jersey. Citizens claims in the lawsuit that they are related and/or affiliated.

In the lawsuit, filed with the Marion Superior Court on April 6, Citizens alleges that the apartment complex owners had stopped paying for gas, water and sewer services by spring 2021.

Citizens spokesman Dan Considine said the company had made payment arrangements with the owners, but that they’d broken them.

Citizens cut off water to Berkley Commons and Capital Place on Feb. 17 but reconnected the service the next day—after the city of Indianapolis fronted $850,000 toward the unpaid bills.

The lawsuit also alleges that the owners defrauded both Citizens and residents by collecting payments that the owners said would go to utilities—but didn’t.

In the filing, Citizens asked to create a constructive trust over the funds the owners collect from residents for utilities. The company noted that it didn’t know how much the owners collected but never paid, how much is left or where the funds are.

Citizens will otherwise pass costs on to its customer base.

“Protecting customers from the cost of unpaid bills is especially important here in Marion County where more than 20% of customers are low-income,” Harrison said.

The $1.3 million Citizens hopes to collect doesn’t include the city’s $850,000 contribution to the bills. Indianapolis has the sole authority to pursue reimbursement for its contribution, and officials have said that’s the plan.

City officials threatened, and then shelved, a nuisance lawsuit against another JPC property, Lakeside Pointe at Nora, until it was acquired by not-for-profit Genesis Housing Foundation in March.

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita has also been involved with Lakeside Pointe and fellow former JPC property Fox Lake. In July, Rokita’s office filed suit over dangerous conditions at the complexes, and in March said it would “help monitor” Genesis’ new owner’s agreement.

“We appreciate the ongoing efforts of Mayor Joe Hogsett and the Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita toward ensuring these property owners pay their utility bills,” Harrison said.

City and Rokita representatives are expected to make an announcement of their own on Wednesday.

IBJ contacted Berkley Commons Apartments but was told by a representative that it wouldn’t be able to provide a comment until Wednesday. JPC did not respond to a request for comment.

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