A local landlord is calling for change after discovering he’ll have to pay nearly $2,000 for water and wastewater charges incurred by his tenants.
Alan Truscott discovered the unpaid charges by coincidence, and is angry he wasn’t informed of the arrears before the bill escalated.
The Collingwood resident was visiting his rental property on Friday, Aug. 6, after his tenants had moved out, to prepare it for sale when he noticed a letter from Epcor taped to the door.
Through the cellophane window of the envelope, he could see it was addressed to his former tenant and there was an amount owing of over $1,600. He has since confirmed with Epcor the total amount owing for water and wastewater for the property is more than $1,900.
Epcor bills water and wastewater charges on behalf of the town. The town operates the service, and is empowered by the Municipal Act to add any unpaid fees onto a property tax bill. As such, landlords like Truscott become ultimately responsible to pay arrears left unpaid by tenants.
“I only found out by accident, I stumbled on it.” said Truscott. “The town should have notified me several months ago. I could have made some progress talking to these tenants about coming up with the funds. It would have been a positive thing for me to be involved.”
Collingwood treasurer Monica Quinlan told CollingwoodToday.ca that the town cannot notify landlords of water and wastewater arrears on accounts in their tenants' name.
They can, however, inform a landlord if a disconnection notice has been served on the property.
However, during COVID-19, the town stopped disconnecting water services. Disconnections only resumed after a council vote on the matter in late June.
“Ideally, balances would not grow to greater than between $750 and $1,000 prior to issuing [a disconnection] notice,” said Quinlan. “However … we are dealing with a backlog.”
She said there’s a backlog in water and wastewater arrears partly because of the pandemic and partly because of some historical balances not addressed.
Based on a report to council by the treasurer in June, there is more than $235,000 in water and wastewater arrears uncollected, with about $126,000 linked to tenant accounts.
Quinlan noted privacy rules prevent the town from notifying landlords of arrears incurred by their tenants.
Truscott said that rule needs to change.
“I think a landlord should be involved as soon as the account is in arrears,” said Truscott. “The sooner, the better. Right off the hop it should happen.”
The town is looking at changes to the bylaws governing water and wastewater fees.
According to Quinlan, there’s a new process in the works to better inform landlords of their responsibilities when it comes to water and wastewater fees for their rental properties.
The town is also working with Epcor to create an agreement between landlords and tenants that would allow the town to communicate with the landlord on arrears. This agreement could be attached to account applications for tenants, and would essentially make the landlord a secondary contact.
“They should have been cutting off this water,” said Truscott. “They never did cut it off. Now they’re trying to come up with new rules and regulations, but, for me, it’s too late.”
He said he’s working to arrange a meeting with the town to ask them to waive the bill.