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Village considering holding landlords responsible for delinquent bills

Yellow Springs is considering legislation that would hold property owners responsible for delinquent utilities associated with rental properties.

Village council will hold a public hearing Monday to discuss the idea. Under current village law, renters are responsible for unpaid utility bills and they account for a large percent of delinquent accounts, according to village data.

“The current legislation doesn’t allow us to attach responsibility to the property,” said Yellow Springs Council president Karen Wintrow. “The current legislation charges the user of the utility whereas the proposed legislation will attach the utilities to the property. as opposed to the user.”

According to previous village reports, delinquent utility accounts, including water, sewer and solid waste, result in an estimated $22,000 annual revenue loss for the village. These delinquent accounts totaled $190,088 over an eight-year period starting in 2006.

Overall most delinquent accounts, about 75 percent, belong to renters who move out of the area, according to village data.

“Our staff strongly believes they need this help to be equitable so that all properties in town are secured in the same way,” said Yellow Springs councilwoman Lori Askeland.

Monday’s hearing is the latest move by the village to collect overdue utility payments. In August, the council approved legislation that gave the village the ability to collect $7,268.46 in unpaid utility bills from four homeowners whose bills date back to 2006 by adding the overdue amount to their tax bills.

Council has been discussing the potential new legislation for more than three months. During this time, several landlords have publicly opposed the potential law, stating the measure could negatively impact them by deterring future renters and cause increases in rents and deposits.

Councilman Brian Housh said the proposed utility-related law was triggered by the village’s “budget crisis” — the municipality is in its second year of deficit spending.

Housh said not implementing the legislation would unfairly impact other residents.

“By doing nothing about this, that ultimately means that’s a loss that every taxpayer carries,” he said. “Since it is a municipally run utility, if we lose $15,000, that comes from taxpayer money. It’s not like a private business.”