Friday, March 25, 2011

The Water Authorities of Virginia Sure Have Been Busy This Year


Water Authorities in the State of Virginia

The various Water Authorities of Virginia have been working very hard at sticking it to the citizens and have been quite successful in doing so. I have personally been told by the Western Virginia Water Authority that they have not been pushing for these changes. REI has been in negotiations with them to work together on a viable win win solution and as we were doing this legislation has been changing that slams us even harder shutting down our business if we don't pay a tenants bill. Lets take a look at some of the bills the other Authorities got passed.

This is what I think these bills mean after reading them. I am not a lawyer so look at it for yourself to see if you read it the same way. Some of them are a little complicated for a novice such as myself. And some are crystal clear.

•    HB 1521 This bill passed. As of this year they are now officially a private business with governmental powers. A political subdivision of the State. I wonder if we now pay for their health insurance, pension, 401K and everything else of this private business. How about the power to not get sued. Or the power to take peoples property away via eminent domain. What other powers does the government have? Wow, I sure would like them to teach me how to make my landlording business an authority too. All of our local politicians voted for this.
•    HB 1522 This bill passed. The Water Authority now has the full power of eminent domain. It used to be the power of eminent domain as is vested in the Commonwealth Transportation Commissioner but they are no longer limited by this. Just the straight up power of eminent domain. I don’t know exactly what benefits they will have from this but I’m sure they are significant. All of our local politicians voted for this with exception of Bill Cleveland who made the right decision. I was told that this bill gives them no new powers. That they still have the same powers of eminent domain as they have had. And that they were only "fixing a drafting error and made a procedural change".
•    HB 1888 This bill was tabled. Cities that provide water and sewer tried to get the same power as the Water Authority to put a lien on the landlords property if the tenant doesn’t  pay for their contractual agreement. It was tabled and not allowed to be voted on.
•    HB 2297 This bill passed. Very interesting bill here. This bill has “old” language in it that says all utilities are required to pay a fair rate of interest as determined by the Virginia State Corporation Commission. This bill also has new language that they can cut off anyone’s water after 20 days of the bill being due. Therefore if your tenant doesn’t pay their bill there is no reason the lien they are going to put on your property should be for more than 1 month and 20 days since they accept post payment rather than prepayment as landlords do. This bill also has new language that prevents the Water Authority from turning off the water if they can prove from their doctor that they or some other family member in the house has a serious medical condition. The politicians decided that they will allow other customers to foot the bills via increased approved rates. All of our local politicians voted yes to this.
•    HB 2425 This Bill Passed. This bill allows the Water Authority to put a lien on a landlords property if the tenant doesn’t pay their bills. It is both unconstitutional and a violation of contract law to send a bill to a 3rd party that no beneficial use of the product or service. This has been fought by landlords in the courts in many states which has resulted in the finding that it is in fact illegal and not allowed to do. We have not taken it to the courts in Virginia yet so we still have to deal with them breaking the law while following what they have been granted to do. The lien they put on the property is higher than everything else so they get paid even before the bank, IRS or any other judgments get paid. New language in this bill allows the Water Authority to shut a landlords business down if they have not paid the lien from the deadbeat tenants unpaid water bill. They are allowed to deny water service to your next tenant even if they have outstanding credit with the Water Authority if you don’t pay the lien. NOW That is a good lawsuit for Legal Aid. Denial of water service to a tenant for a life essential product. New language also requires the Authority to notify you when the tenant becomes 15 days delinquent IF you provide them with an “email address”.  ALL of our local politicians voted YES for this. Both the senators and delegates.
•    SB 1216 This Bill Passed. This bill is identical to HB 2425 above. This is the Senate Bill. Above is the House bill. ALL of our local politicians voted YES for this. Both the senators and delegates.
•    SB 846 Didn’t pass. Looks like another one where the cities tried to get the same power as the Water Authority. Looks like it passed the Senate and was stalled in the House
•    SB 1466 This bill did NOT pass. Our senator John Edwards was the patron of this bill. He added some language that required the Water Authority to have a written agreement signed by both the authority and the agent / owner of the property that they will be putting a lien on the owners property if the tenant doesn’t pay. That they could not put a lien on the owners property unless they had this signed agreement which essentially requires the Water Authority to have full disclosure of what they intend to do to the owner. Edwards got the Senate to pass it. Onzlee Ware got the Committee of Counties, Cities and Towns to pass it. It then was defeated in the House where Habeeb voted against it and Cleveland decided to not vote therefore he voted no as well.

So, those are the highlights on the water business that has been going on. Other Authorities across Virginia are working very hard to stick it to the citizens and small business. It is clear that they are interested in 100% pure profitability with no accounts payable as all businesses have. They are a private business with governmental powers now and we can expect much more of this to come.

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