By Tim Kalinowski
Redcliff council passed first reading for a new collections bylaw which would change the way utilities are charged in the community. Under the new system, property owners will be the ones ultimately responsible for payment of all water, sewer and garbage collection fees to the town.
The changes will particularly affect owners of rental properties. Up until now, Redcliff has billed each rental unit as an individual client, charging specified rates on water, sewer and garbage collection to that renter. The inhabitant of the rental unit has been fully responsible for paying their own bills; not the property’s owner. If the bills are not paid, service has been suspended and the file referred to a collection agency.
If the proposed changes become law, Redcliff will have a graduated system where existing tenants will continue to pay their own bills as they have been. If they do not pay for 40 days, the tenant and property owner will be informed of the delinquency at the same time. The tenant will be informed they could be signed off the account and the owner informed he or she could be signed on if payment is not made.
If 60 days passes with no payment, the owner and tenant will be informed the tenant has been signed off and the owner signed on permanently. The owner will then be charged the delinquent amount in full. If it is not paid outright, the delinquent amount will be charged directly to the property owner’s taxes.
The same procedure, however, will not apply to new tenancies once the bylaw takes effect. Tenants signing a rental agreement after the law takes effect will have to receive their utilities under the property owner’s account.
Mayor Ernie Reimer acknowledged after council members voted in favour of first reading of the utilities billing bylaw changes some owners of rental properties might be upset by the new system.
“Certainly the landlords will be upset, but it is their building to begin with,” he said. “We have to look after the whole of the community. I don’t know why all the taxpayers should have to be responsible to pay a delinquent utility bill on one property.”
According to the Town, about $5,000 in unpaid delinquencies are left over each year in utilities file. Since 2010 Redcliff has accumulated $31,403 in unpaid utilities on its books. The proposed bylaw changes will likely come before council for second and third reading on Nov. 28.