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Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Landlords may be responsible for renters' unpaid utility bills

By Amy Kronenberger
ROCKFORD - Council members on Tuesday agreed to amend a utility ordinance after eight renters left their homes last month without paying utility bills.
Current law places the responsibility of payment on the renter, not the landlord. Therefore, if the renter abandons the property or leaves without paying the bill, the village must cover the cost.
Council gave first reading to the amended ordinance which stipulates all new renters requesting utility service must pay a deposit of $225. The deposit would cover costs if the renter abandons, council members said. The money will be refunded when a renter moves, as long as all bills are paid.
Additionally, if a current renter receives a shut-off notice and service is terminated due to nonpayment, he or she will not receive service again until the owed payment and full deposit have been made.
Landlords may request billing to remain in their name and forego the renter's deposit. However, by doing so, the owner assumes responsibility for all utility fees.
"If a landlord cannot find a renter because they can't afford the deposit, then the landlord can keep the utility service in his name," council member Greg Pontsler said.
Council member Steve Gehle said they considered Celina's rule, which automatically reverts responsibility to the landlord if the renter fails to make payment. However, he said the state is working on legislation that would ban municipalities from requiring landlord responsibility.
"In this ordinance, we're giving landlords the choice," Gehle said.
The ordinance will have a second reading at council's Dec. 6 meeting.
Village administrator Jeff Long said demolition will begin soon on the buildings at the former water treatment plant. When this is completed, Long recommended giving the land to the school.
The land is located by the football stadium where the former swimming pool was located. Long said giving the land to the school will allow future growth of the school's athletic facilities.
Council also approved an Anthem health insurance policy for village employees. The policy will not deduct more money from the employees' paychecks, but they will have a higher deductible. The village will pay the same rate as this year.
Long said DP&L Energy soon will install six new street lights on Holly Lane. The lights will begin at U.S. 33 and continue to where the existing lights begin. DP&L wanted to install 10, but Long said six were plenty.
The lights will have acorn-shaped globes and are a finishing touch to this year's street reconstruction.
Long also said Wabash Communications was granted an easement and soon will install fiber optics from Market Street to the school for the school's use. The company plans to run fiber optics throughout the village in the next year or two, giving residents another option for cable and Internet service.
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