New Law Requires Landlords to Pay Tenants’ Delinquent Water Bills

by Chris on January 14, 2011

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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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Trevor January 18, 2011 at 8:27 am

Do you think there is any option for a landlord to sue the city for this decision?? Seems a little unfair!

Leslie Ghezesan January 18, 2011 at 10:41 am

The tenants should be enrolled in an equal payment plan will bee fair to the city and landlord to yes legal action would be an option to Leslie

Keith Robinson January 18, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Municipalities seem to gravitate towards this highhanded approach. To avoid the problem, landlords should consider taking water as their own responsibility, paying for it directly to their municipality and including the cost of it in the rent.

clairely January 23, 2011 at 3:11 pm

We must be crazy to still want to be in the rental business. Let the government know that we are not a welfare society but trying to run a business. I am just sick of these guys making stupid rules. Anyhow, we already pay water rates to the municipality, but what is next? Hydro they don’t pay sometimes. Give us a break.

Roger February 1, 2011 at 7:08 am

How is a tenant’s nonpayment of the water bill the landlord’s fault? I didn’t approve them for the city’s water – the city did.

Here in Winnipeg, this is already the norm. The city benefits from additional clients paying into their coffers for the water, yet doesn’t feel like going after delinquents. It is truly insulting that our city just adds other people’s bill to my taxes because they are too lazy to track down their own client. Just like all other service/utility providers and creditors, they should do their own credit checks and subsequently enforce late payment from the people they approved to consume their product.

Rose August 12, 2011 at 11:14 am

I am a tenant in Cambridge and am very frustrated since the city took over our water/sewer. I was given a letter stating that this would happen and how it will save us, the customer, money but it has done nothing but increase my bills, substantially. We were not given any notifications of the surcharge. I don’t know what this $4/month ($8 per bill plus tax) fee is for? When writing the city about it they had no explanation for me other than simply just calling it the “cost of administering the Tenant Billing/Collection Program.” So this charge is for collecting money for my bill, which hasn’t changed? I never had to pay $400 when I moved in. Even $230 is a lot of money, especially since many rentals here are by students, whom come and go every 4 months. My bills are now 150% – 200% times the cost with the city as opposed to what they were with Energy+, before the city took over. I think this will also adversely affect the landlords as many renters, will not want to rent in this city, if their bills are increasing that much.

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