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Landlords on the hook for water arrears in Norfolk

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Landlords in Norfolk County will want to pay extra attention to their tax bills now that the municipality has enacted its new policy regarding water bill arrears.

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Under the new policy, which took effect in March, Norfolk will apply the debt of tenants who are more than 30 days in arrears on their water bills against the property’s tax bill.

Sue Boughner, manager of revenue services for Norfolk County, notified Norfolk council last week that the first round of arrears are in the process of being transferred to the tax roll.

“As property owner, the landlord is responsible in the event that the tenant defaults,” Boughner said in a note to council.

The policy raised the hackles of landlords when council approved it last year.

Prior to the new policy taking effect, tenant arrears were referred to a collection agency. If the collection agency failed to resolve the debt, Norfolk was forced to write it off. Any costs the municipality incurred in doing so were effectively spread out across the remaining pool of ratepayers in the county.

In her note to council, Boughner said the Municipal Act empowers municipalities to resolve water and wastewater arrears in this fashion. The county has since established a page at its website for landlords who wish to learn more about how to protect their interests in this area. The page is listed under the heading “Water and Wastewater Bills: Property Owners and Tenants.”

During the June 8 discussion, Mayor Kristal Chopp said at least one landlord in the Delhi area has already pointed out that an unpaid tenant water account prior to the March billing cycle had been applied against their tax bill.

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Chopp re-interated council’s position that tenant arrears in this area prior to March will be referred to a collection agency as per the former policy. Landlords, she said, will not be responsible for these costs.

CAO Jason Burgess acknowledged that Norfolk’s third-party billing agent — ERTH Solutions – may have difficulty segregating arrears prior to and after the implementation of the new policy. Burgess said these will have to be resolved manually on a case-by-case basis as they present themselves.

“I’m sure there may be one or two of these pop up,” Burgess said. “Then we’ll know how to deal with it.”

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