‘We didn’t have the $4,000’

N.L. cou­ple is­sues warn­ing over seven-year power bill saga


Paula Tucker and Michael Tucker of Car­bon­ear were fi­nan­cially and emo­tion­ally thrown when, in 2017, they were told they owed more than $3,300 to New­found­land Power, based largely on un­set­tled ac­counts, years old.

They told The Tele­gram they had no idea the ac­counts ex­isted, hav­ing been out of the prov­ince at the time costs were in­curred.

In an in­ter­view this week, they pro­duced the bills pro­vided by the power com­pany, show­ing charges on dif­fer­ent ac­counts for their home ad­dress, un­der the name Paula Tucker.

There were two bills for dif­fer­ent times with the same name and ad­dress, but each with dif­fer­ent ac­count num­bers. The ac­counts were also dif­fer­ent from what the hus­band

and wife had un­der­stood to be their only elec­tric­ity ac­count with New­found­land Power.

They said they were at a loss. The Tuck­ers had been play­ing catch-up with their elec­tri­cal bill, but didn’t see a prob­lem get­ting clear of that bal­ance, un­til the ad­di­tional bills were pro­vided to them.

“For us, it be­came a very per­sonal thing. We didn’t have the $4,000. I had to go to his 82-year-old mother. She had to go to the Sco­tia­bank in Brampton, Ont., and ap­ply for a non­se­cured credit card to pay this god­damn bill so we could get our power back,” Paula Tucker said, speak­ing through welling tears of frus­tra­tion and em­bar­rass­ment at hav­ing to ask for the help.

They tried to ad­dress the old bills with New­found­land Power, to fig­ure out why they ex­isted, to no real avail.

Cer­tain the bills shouldn’t ex­ist, the Tuck­ers ul­ti­mately went the route of small claims.

Last month, on July 23, they were awarded a de­fault judge­ment for $4,190.91.

No­tice of the judge­ment was sent off to the power com­pany last Fri­day.

New­found­land Power has re­fused to com­ment for this story, say­ing the mat­ter is “an on­go­ing le­gal mat­ter,” de­spite not hav­ing con­tested the Tuck­ers’ claim, and the or­der be­ing is­sued.

The de­tailed story

The Tuck­ers said they want to share de­tails of their case for other prop­erty own­ers, as a warn­ing. They’d also like to of­fer it to any­one who has found them­selves en­coun­ter­ing sim­i­lar, sur­prise bills.

For them, it started in Oc­to­ber 2011, when they de­cided to move to Al­berta for a time, while still keep­ing their house on the wa­ter in Car­bon­ear.

“I was al­ways fly­ing back and forth to Al­berta,” Michael Tucker said, sug­gest­ing the turn­arounds were tak­ing a toll then.

It made sense to live out West, he said, then come back when they could.

“I fig­ured I’d be home ev­ery night with her then, rather than be­ing gone three or four months at a time,” he said.

There was a fi­nal me­ter read­ing for their Car­bon­ear bun­ga­low, and fi­nal bill of $70.55 as they made their move.

“As far as we knew, that was the end of my power bill. We were done,” he said.

The cou­ple ended up rent­ing their home from Oc­to­ber 2011 to Novem­ber 2012. The ten­ant in Car­bon­ear opened an ac­count and paid bills in his own name. The ten­ant gave his no­tice and left when a rel­a­tive passed and a fam­ily prop­erty be­came an op­tion, Paula said.

This was when the first ac­count un­known to them was ap­par­ently opened by the util­ity.

“They put it back in my name with no land­lord ten­ant agree­ment or any­thing and it ran up to this amount,” she said, point­ing to a June 2013 bill for $1,701.18.

“There was no one here to run up this bill. This house was empty, va­cant,” she said, adding her un­der­stand­ing is the power was shut off.

They rented to an­other ten­ant. Again, that ten­ant had an ac­count un­der their name and the Tuck­ers be­lieved the power was shut off once the ten­ant left.

“(But) they opened up an­other ac­count in my name, and ran it up to this amount,” she said, point­ing to a bill for $1,615.97 from May 2014.

Au­to­matic trans­fers pos­si­ble

New­found­land Power spoke gen­er­ally on re­quest, about the idea of dif­fer­ent ac­count num­bers for a sin­gle prop­erty and land­lord. A pro­gram for land­lords and prop­erty own­ers does ex­ist whereby New­found­land Power will au­to­mat­i­cally main­tain ser­vice and sim­ply trans­fer the ex­pense back to the owner af­ter a ten­ant de­parts.

In those cases, The Tele­gram was told, a new ac­count num­ber would be cre­ated for each pe­riod of time where a rental prop­erty is with­out a ten­ant — po­ten­tially ex­plain­ing the dif­fer­ent ac­counts in the Tucker’s case.

But the Tuck­ers say they never signed up for the land­lord pro­gram, or in­di­cated that is what they wanted. They say no proof was ever pro­duced to show they agreed to the pro­gram, with New­found­land Power’s own rules and reg­u­la­tions stat­ing land­lords would have to “sign an agree­ment” to be­gin those au­to­matic trans­fers.

Paula Tucker said she’s only the sec­ond name on their mort­gage in any event, so any ac­count opened should have been in ei­ther her hus­band’s name, or both names. De­lay in the bills

The cou­ple re­turned to their Car­bon­ear home at the end of 2014 and re­set­tled. They had an in­spec­tion on the home as they re­turned and had to have some small elec­tri­cal up­grades, in­clud­ing new ground­ing rods installed, with New­found­land Power re­quir­ing its peo­ple on site be­fore power was re­stored.

The cou­ple be­gan pay­ing bills at that time on what they un­der­stood as their only power ac­count. There was no men­tion of the un­paid bills, they said. And years passed.

“We weren’t hid­ing any­thing. We’d come back; we con­tacted light and power; we said we’re the own­ers of the house, we want power back to the house. We weren’t hid­ing any­thing,” she said, sug­gest­ing the dis­cov­ery of the old bills might have been tied to some ques­tions they posed in 2017, about the power bill re­fund, tied to the rate sta­bi­liza­tion plan. The years cov­ered by the re­fund would have in­cluded time be­fore the cou­ple moved West. They were pay­ing in, and wanted to know if they were re­ceiv­ing a re­fund.

As for the mys­tery bills from the power ac­counts cre­ated while they were away, the bills shown to The Tele­gram were marked with an ad­dress in Al­berta. But the Tuck­ers say they don’t know where New­found­land Power would have got­ten the ad­dress — it’s one they moved on from be­fore the bills were dated.

The cou­ple also asked for the in­for­ma­tion New­found­land Power had on hand, in start­ing the new ac­counts, re­ceiv­ing a print­out of a com­puter screen cap­ture. They showed The Tele­gram a printed page show­ing the screen cap­ture, with no con­tact phone num­ber show­ing in the in­for­ma­tion, no email con­tact and only the ad­dress of the Car­bon­ear home.

“I just won­der how many other land­lords have been put into this sit­u­a­tion where they’ve had th­ese mon­ster bills when they re­turned home to prop­er­ties that were never sup­posed to have power,” Paula Tucker said, freely shar­ing copies of power bills, email ex­changes, notes from her phone con­ver­sa­tions with cus­tomer ser­vice rep­re­sen­ta­tives, a fi­nan­cial state­ment show­ing the money trans­fer from On­tario they are anx­ious to re­pay and their court doc­u­ments, in­clud­ing their copy of the de­fault or­der from small claims.

“What got me is we weren’t even faced with it when we came home. We were faced with it three years later,” she said.


Paula Tucker and Michael Tucker in their home in Car­bon­ear. They want to share their story of un­ex­pected bills and ac­counts they weren’t aware ex­isted.

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