Utility costs irk tenants at Tiffin Mall

Several tenants at Tiffin Mall received letters from mall owner Suder-Pierson Properties Friday morning stating their utility payments would be raised hundreds of dollars, and the tenants are  voicing outrage.

At least five tenants were told they would have to pay an additional $300-$350 a month for electricity and gas, plus $900-$1,050 for backdated utility payments from September to December. If these fees are not paid, tenants said they could be evicted.

“I’m not upset, I’m infuriated. If I had an option, I’d be out right now,” said one tenant who asked not to be named. “I know I’m not using $250 worth of gas. . . . I’ll pay what’s in my lease, if I actually have heat.”

The tenant said they needed to get space heaters to keep their unit warm for customers because heat was not being provided.

Tenants are not sure what the extra utility fees are for, but some suspect the mall owners are passing the cost of heating mall corridors on to them.

Sale of the mall was announced in September.

Prior to the new ownership, business owners in the mall paid electric bills in their own names and did not have to pay gas bills, said Keith Hodkinson, owner of WTSC Seneca County Radio.

“I’ve been there six or seven years and I’ve never paid for gas,” he said. “When I signed my lease, I was told the gas is paid for and I never received a gas bill.”

Hodkinson said heat has not been making it into his space because the system is damaged, but he was told he was responsible for fixing it.

“There is no heat in my unit and I’m using space heaters in there. It’s not healthy. It was 49 degrees (Friday morning),” Hodkinson said. “Be careful what you wish for, because you might just get it. Mike Kohan was a horrible landlord, but this is much worse.”

Tenants have discussed moving out or pursuing legal action.

“Our lawyers are going to have a field day,” said one tenant, who asked not to be named.

Business owners also have concerns over sewage smells, vandalism and leaking ceilings, which they said have not been addressed by mall owners.

Most tenants did not want to be identified, but one said they were  afraid to complain to the owner for fear of eviction.

Representatives of Suder-Pierson Properties could not be reached for comment Friday.