Howard enters 6-year battle over Con Ed’s error

You may find this story unbelievable. Because it is.

Manfred Furhmann and Corinne DiMartino are living a comedy of errors. But there’s nothing funny about the treatment the Mamaroneck couple has received from Con Edison. They’ve been battling the utility over big bills for almost six years!

The problem is that Con Ed has made a series of mistakes that has resulted in Furhmann and DiMartino owing more than $2,700.

It started in 2011. They converted a two-family rental property they own from oil to gas. But Con Ed mistakenly switched the meters so each apartment had the other apartment’s meter.

And by the way, we don’t exactly have the most reputable tenant here. One of them is Frank Bugeja, a convicted criminal out on parole. A guy DiMartino says she subsequently had to evict because he refused to pay rent. Bugeja’s last known address was Sing Sing.

But Bugeja’s past didn’t stop Con Ed from making yet another mistake. Somehow, DiMartino says, the utility let him put his apartment’s account in his name, taking Furhmann's off without Furhmann's ok. That created another issue.

As DiMartino told me, “He said 'look at my gas bills. I’m not paying them.'”

And the reason they seemed high apparently was because they included the gas heat that Furhmann and DiMartino were paying.

This went on while the owners, Furhmann and DiMartino, were out of town. And the tenants made the situation worse.

“They called Con Edison without letting us know there was a problem,” Furhmann told me.

Then Con Ed made mistake number 3: The utility thought the owners were up to no good, essentially billing the tenants for heat Furhmann and DiMartino should have been providing and in fact were providing.

Now, here comes mistake number 4: Con Ed sends our unlucky couple a notice of violation. But they send it to the WRONG ADDRESS! They send it to the house next door to the rental property. Furhmann's son lived there. And through some unfortunate timing, the notice never got to Furhmann and DiMartino so they could act on it.

“He’s (Furhmann's son) going through a divorce. And his wife has the mail forwarded for her new apartment.”

So, the notice was never forwarded. The landlords never knew about it. But Con Ed wasn’t buying it.

“That part they didn’t believe us at all,” DiMartino said.

What a mess!

At one point Con Ed demanded Furhmann and DiMartino pony up almost $4,000. They took the matter to the body that oversees utilities in New York, the Public Service Commission. The commission knocked down the bill. But now the landlords still owe Con Ed more than $2,700. That includes a $730 deposit, something typically assessed to risky customers.

And then there’s this little gem DiMartino told me about: “They want us to pay back Frank Bugeja $340.”

That’s right. Con Ed wants them to “pay back” $340 to a guy who barely paid anything towards his utilities in the first place and who’s been in and out of prison so often they should have installed a revolving door for him.

So where does that leave things?

Con Edison sent us a statement:

"Con Edison and the state regulator have reviewed this matter in-depth and concluded that the amount being billed is accurate. As is our practice, we are offering the customer a payment agreement under which the customer would pay the amount owed in monthly installments."

Not even any acknowledgment of all the mistakes the utility made, mistakes that created this entire problem!

Since the statement was issued, Furhmann and DiMartino have heard back from the PSC staff. A letter says Con Edison has been advised to reach a resolution with them as soon as possible.

Let’s hope Con Ed takes the hint.

Con Ed’s treatment of Furhmann and DiMartino has been unbelievable. They still view the landlords as having a delinquent account even though they say they have the checks and receipts showing they’ve always paid every charge they’re not contesting.

Even better would be if the PSC held Con Ed responsible for its errors and voided the bill.

But, in any case, the couple won’t quit. “I really want to fight it,” DiMartino said.

We’ll see what happens and let you know. After all, if this can happen to one customer it can happen to others.