Council Targets Landlords With Delinquent Water Bills
LAST UPDATED TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 2009 9:37 PM CST IN NEWS
By Skip Descant
THE MORNING NEWS
FAYETTEVILLE -- Landlords who fall behind on their rent for apartment property have an added incentive to pay the bills. The Fayetteville City Council unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday night to allow city water officials to discontinue service on the landlord's personal account rather than the apartment building.
And a new false alarm system ordinance takes effect March 1.
"If any person -- no matter what type of property ownership is used -- fails to pay the city water/sewer/trash bill, then city water can be discontinued not only for that account, but every other account of this person," the amended ordinance reads.
"It's not the fault of the renters, it's the fault of the landlord," said Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan, who proposed the changes after learning of a situation which involves a landlord not paying a bill.
"It sounds like a very good idea. It's only fair," said Maria Barragam, property manager, for Glendale Apartments in Fayetteville, where an unfurnished one-bedroom unit goes for $470 a month, with all utilities paid.
"We haven't had any problems," added Barragam, when asked if the complex pays bills on time.
"It makes since," said Karen Colbert King, executive broker for University Realty, which owns several apartment properties in the area. At one of those -- North Creekside Apartments -- the water bill is included in the rent. But she warned, unethical landlords will always look for loopholes.
"At the same time there's so many different ways around that. But people need to just be honest and pay their water bills," added King, who added her company has always paid their bill in a timely way and has "a very good relationship with the Water Department."
King advised that some of those loopholes could be opening accounts in different names or corporations.
The proposed ordinance addresses this issue by clarifying the definition of the word "customer," to include trusts, limlted liablity companies, corporations and partnerships.
In November 2007 the council passed an ordinance to set in place a limit of how many false alarms for burglar and fire alarm subscribers can have before the city imposes fines. The ordinance is set to take effect in March and will go through a review process in June.
James Butch Coger, who has experience with installing and managing alarm systems told the council that though he supports the spirit of the ordinance, he warned it should not be used as a revenue generating device. And the way to stop false alarms, said Coger, is through increased education.
"Eighty-five to 90 percent of the problems are human error," Coger told the council. "And here again, education can help that a lot."
At A Glance
Fayetteville City Council
In other business, the council:
• Accepted recommendation from students at Root Elementary School to name the creek behind the school to Niokaska Creek after the Osage Native American Tribe.
• Approved the operation of Down Under Taxi, a new cab company in Fayetteville.