BCWA rate plan upsets landlords, town councils

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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

 

Comments

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Raymond Andrews

Yes it would be work for the BWCA to have to collect from tennants ... but they get paid to work don't they ????

Thursday, May 30, 2013 | Report this
User

If this doesn't get resolved than I see landlords protecting themselves by charging a water rate charge to go with first and last rent. That should make it even more of a burden on tenants. Why couldn't the water authority take the tenants credit card information and charge them if they skip out on payments?

Thursday, May 30, 2013 | Report this
DAVETAXPREP

Having been recently involved where a landlord did not inspect the smoke detectors, the law is clear that the landlord has the over responsibility of his/her property. I am sure that many landlords keep the water bill in their name and then pass the expense down via their rent. A 1 or 2 bedroom apartment can only use so much water?

Friday, May 31, 2013 | Report this
DAVETAXPREP

I don't think the college is willing to play baby sitter as these students are suppose to be responsible adults. Again the landlord is responsible for his/her property, so I think the landlord should take on this responsibility before he rents. This would not be a problem then.

Friday, May 31, 2013 | Report this
DAVETAXPREP

bigmouthfan, lets not put this on the rente, there are landlords out there that are just as despicable, I am leaving one as we speak. This is why I state the problem needs to be on the landlord.

Saturday, June 1, 2013 | Report this
Nard Glimrod

-- the law is clear that the landlord has the over responsibility of

-- his/her property

Yes, Dave. Two other things are equally clear:

1) You are rabidly anti-landlord to the point that it muddles your ability to think clearly; and

2) All laws aside, common sense says that whoever uses the water should pay for the water.

I agree that it's clear that the law, as written, indicates that the landlord is ultimately responsible for the water bills. With this in mind, any lease I execute in the future will have a clear and separate deposit set aside to take care of any water usage that is unpaid by the tenant.

I will be abiding by the law and the tenants will be paying for the water they consume.

I anxiously await to hear the problem(s) you're going to have with this plan.

Thursday, June 6, 2013 | Report this
DAVETAXPREP

last on the left, Thank you for your synopsis of what I like and dislike. it is called an opinion, it is like asshol** everyone has one. anytime you don't like what I have to say you have the freedom to turn off your computer, so really I don't care what you need to say. Where do I go to become like you Mr. Perfect. YOU HAVE YOUR GREAT DAY.

Thursday, June 6, 2013 | Report this

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