By Daniel Downs
This coming Thursday evening at 6:30 PM Councilman Louderback will propose a new ordinance to the Council. The purpose of the ordinance is to revise current municipal law that holds landlords solely responsible for tenants will bills. The primary problem seems to be the lack of stringent requirements renter who apply for water service but who fail to pay. Because water billing is quarterly, hundreds of dollars of unpaid water bills may accumulate for landlords can get the water turned off. Even after it has been discontinued, landlords often continue receiving water bills.
Landlords complained to the Council being unable to get the city stop or correct water services or billings because the service is in their tenant’s name. Because of this, the city does not go after tenants for unpaid water bills because the bill is by law the responsibility of landlords. To add injury to insult, the legal process to evict delinquent or destructive tenants can take many six or more months to resolve.
There are probably many ways this problem could be solved, and I want to add to them a few suggestions. Council should seriously consider making tenants solely responsible for their water bills. Council should also seriously consider the costs to taxpayers for collections, court proceedings, write-offs, and any additional costs of billing tenants. While a collections supervisor for a national service company, we found that sending bi-monthly reminders increased the number payments made by delinquent customers. This might reduce unpaid bills. Probably, a better solution is to place customers who rent on a monthly billing cycle instead of quarterly. There again, the costs of billing would certainly increase. The key to reducing delinquency and write-offs is not letting customers go beyond 30 days before seeking payment from customers.
That is known by all in the continually bailed out national corporate banking system that keeps inflation moving progressively upward and our standard of living moving downward.
Another possible way to resolve landlord-tenant water bill issue is to make landlords fully responsible for the water service and its billing. Let the landlords, who supposedly screen their tenants for their ability to pay, sign their tenants up, bill them monthly for the service, and then pay the city quarterly. A running average on water usage could be used for landlords to calculate monthly costs. After each quarterly billing cycle, landlords could adjust cost in accordance with city billing. Why shouldn’t landlords be able recoup those costs? Of course, the potential for greed on the part of landlords is inherent in this solution.