Wednesday, August 16, 2006

LL/T in Jamestown

Today's Post-Journal carries an article of interest on this topic. It has long been a complaint of the Real Estate Investors Association that the BPU liens property for delinquent utility bills at a property, regardless of the customer of record. Last year, the REIA sued the City and it was held that the City couldn't lien property without a hearing process, which it has now developed and intiated. REIA members were not happy with the return of the liens and apparenty continue to seek a new way to assure payment. A new proposal may allow a deposit to be charged for utility service.

A couple thoughts occur to me on this. There are already some laws concerning deposits for customers with a poor history, and there are already exemptions written into the law. If these people are the "dregs of society," as REIA secretary Mr. Whitmeyer so generously stated, it's possible they fall into a category that's already exempt. Will the Jamestown law mirror state exemption law? If not, and the BPU requires a deposit from someone on SSI, for example, I can see a Federal lawsuit. And what happens if someone is exempt and has utility arrears?

Secondly, there's a broader applicability rule. Who will be required to pay? Will it be all new customers, or based on a credit report, or renters?

It's understandable that property owners want to safeguard investments (trying hard not to editorialize on that one) and the City wants to get paid (even if the Public Service Commission regs state that utilities aren't supposed to be profit centers, but are to provide a public utility service). In some ways, though, this seems like an attempt to close the barn door after the horses have escaped. A landlord can do a credit and background check for a nominal fee prior to move-in and can always deny entry or, if debts accumulate, remove the tenant (by legal process). The need for an additional deposit seems, to this writer, as if it could be eliminated through business practices prior to enacting new legislation.


Blogger Randy said...

I think that the vendor of the service that is under contract with them should have the problem of unpaid arrears. Before a landlord accepts a tenant who will have the utilities in their own name, they will have to submit with their application a statement from the BPU that they have no arrears unpaid in their name. Then even after they submit that, also charge a utilities deposit and include in the lease they will be evicted for overdue utility charges.

7:01 PM  

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