Town councilors in Warren and Bristol — and apparently, plenty of landlords — are upset about a proposed change at the Bristol County Water Authority that would make landlords responsible for their tenants’ water bills, and would place leins upon property owners when their tenants skip out without paying.
Councilors in Bristol are instructing BCWA board members to vote against the plan when the matter comes to a vote later this month, and Warren officials have expressed similar concerns. A hearing on the matter will be held Wednesday night, June 5, at Mt. Hope High School in Bristol.
State law mandates that landlords, not their tenants, are responsible for their water bills, and allows water authorities to place liens against property owners when bills haven’t been paid. For years, the authority ignored that state law, eschewing liens and allowing tenants with metered service to pay their bills directly. But BCWA executive director Pamela Marchand said the authority is looking to correct that, mostly for efficiency’s sake. Also, making landlords responsible would save the authority about $40,000 per year, she said.
“It creates a lot of work” for workers at the authority to have to track down tenants and change accounts every time a tenant moves in or out, she said.
“This will make it a lot more efficient,” should the change be approved by the BCWA”s nine-member board.
That’s not certain, however. Since news about the proposed change came out last month, councilors in Warren and Bristol say they have heard from dozens of landlords who are upset about the change. At a recent meeting of the Bristol Town Council, councilors voted to ask Bristol’s three representatives on the BCWA board to vote against the plan:
“The council expressed concern that the proposed change may not be in the best interest of the Authority’s customers and respectfully requests that you should oppose this change,” Bristol Town Clerk Louis Cirillo wrote to BCWA board members Frank J. Sylvia, Georgina MacDonald and Paul Bishop.
Though Warren took no official action, councilors made it clear during a meeting earlier this month that they don’t favor the change.
When Warren BCWA board members appeared before the council last month to give their regular monthly report, “we told them that we had received nothing but negative feedback about it,” said councilor Joseph DePasquale.
“I think it’s going to be a burden to everyone.”
Mr. DePasquale owns a three-unit tenement on Main Street, living in one of the units and renting out the other two. Though he pays for utilities himself — water, gas electric and the like — he said he can understand why landlords who make water the tenant’s responsibility would be angry.
“What happens next? The gas bill? The electric bill? I understand they may have a problem, but to me I believe it’s the water authority’s responsibility to provide water to the person who is using it.”
Mr. DePasquale said he plans to attend Wednesday’s meeting.
“I think you’re going to see a lot of people there,” he said.
Water bill hearing Wednesday
What: Bristol County Water Authority hearing on landlord bill change proposal
Where: Mt. Hope High School
When: 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 5