Sunday, December 11, 2011

Edgewater drops requirement for landlords to pay tenant's water bills

EDGEWATER -- It will now be up to the water users to pay for what they use.

After years of requiring property owners to provide water to tenants living in their properties, the City Council on Monday instructed staff to change its policy on who pays for that water.

"We are placing the responsibility on the responsible parties," said Councilman Justin Kennedy, who lead the charge for change.

To Kennedy, the question was simple: "Who should pay the water bill?" The landlord -- who might get stuck with a bill for several hundred dollars if a tenant skips out on their rent and other bills -- or the person who used the water?

The councilman said he spent the past several months researching his argument. He concluded that the current policy is unfair -- placing liens on properties of landlords with delinquent bills due to tenants leaving without paying.

Kennedy said the property owners should benefit from the city-owned water plant. A way to guarantee that benefit, Kennedy said, would be to require a $200 deposit paid by whomever's name is on the water bill.

As long as the risk isn't on the true owner of the city's water plant -- property owners -- Councilman Mike Ignasiak had no problem with putting the burden of water usage on the users.

Councilwoman Gigi Bennington agreed. "I don't want the rest of the city at risk," she said.

Landlord Shirley Boyce was more blunt. "I am tired of paying bills for dead-beat people," she said.

Another landlord, Marcia Barnett, said it is time for people to take responsibility and for accountability.

- In a related matter, the council also instructed staff to clean up their water bills by changing monthly charges for refuse, recycling and storm water fees and putting them into a single charge on the annual tax bill.

City Manager Tracey Barlow said his staff will review the policy with the city's legal counsel regarding the proposed change, which would not go into effect without another council vote.

- In honor of their fallen colleague, council members laid flowers in front of a picture at the seat of Ted Cooper, who died unexpectedly Nov. 28.

A special election is expected in February to fill Cooper's District 4 seat. His term was to expire in November 2012.

"Mr. Cooper was always so helpful and so passionate," Mayor Mike Thomas said in honoring his fellow council member.


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