We have called over ten cities that run their own utilities. None of them go after the landlord for tenants' utility bills. The largest deposit we found was $175.00. To give you an example, the City of Niles charges a deposit of $100.00. If a customer gets disconnected, prior to their service being restored, they have to pay an additional $100.00.
When we asked these cities what they do with customers who move and don't pay their bills, all said they go after collections from the tenant.
The city of Dowagiac has said that it takes too much time to try to track down a tenant, and they would need additional staff to do that. Other utilities say the easiest way to collect is to get a judgment and get their money from state income taxes.
The other way they all cover bills that go unpaid, is they figure it into the cost they charge their utility customers. Dowagiac doesn't have the ability to raise the rate to cover their losses. This is because we are being forced to pay the highest electric rate in the area to pay off the two million dollar mistake made by the city when they bought out the electric contract.
This issue about raising the deposit has NOTHING to do with people leaving and not paying their bills and has everything to do with paying off the two million dollar mistake made by our elected officials. If we weren't paying off the contract, the city could cover their losses, like all other city utilities do--with a small utility increase. But, because of this mistake, the city wants renters to pay for THEIR mistake.
Another question that needs to be answered, is just how many of these unpaid utility bills are from foreclosed homes and not renters? What good will it do for the city to be able to put a lien on foreclosed property when the house may sit vacant for years before they get the money?
The councilmen need to consider the utility contract payoff before voting on this increase. It isn't the renters' fault the city made bad choices, but the renters are being given the bill.