Cambridge, Ontario landlords are angry over the city’s new water billing procedures. The rules adopted by the city council go into effect this month.
These changes come on the heels of a 8.9% water rate hike for 2011.
The council recently voted to allow a reduction of the minimum amount a tenant must post as a deposit for water service. The councillors decreased that amount by over 40%, from $400 to $230. A $4 per month surcharge will also apply to tenants’ bills.
At the same time the tenant deposit was decreased, the councillors directed that unpaid tenant water bills will be “added directly to the Collector’s Tax Roll of the property owner.” If the landlord does not pay up, they could face a lien on the rental property.
The city recently took over the water-sewer billing process, reportedly to save money over paying a private contractor. That left the councillors struggling to come up with an equitable policy for billing water. Councillors reviewed previous default rates for tenants, and later decided that making the landlords ultimately responsible for the delinquencies saves the city the cost of hiring collection agents and running credit checks on the tenants.
A number of local landlords have spoken out against the measure. An estimated 120 or more people packed the city council meeting last November when the measure was being debated, and local news agencies reported that applause broke out when a landlord suggested filing a class action lawsuit over the measure.
However, city officials contend that Provincial law does allow them to apply the bills to the landlords’ taxes.
One landlord raised the concern that the city only bills water every two months, so by the time a landlord is notified of a delinquent account, four months have passed and the landlord’s chances for reimbursement from the tenant diminish. Councillors have shown some willingness to review that policy.
The council reviewed water billing rules from Niagara Falls, Waterloo and Kitchener before adopting the policy.
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