TIPP CITY — Tipp City Council on Monday pulled back from legislation amending the city’s electricity regulations and including language that could require rental property owners to assume responsibility for a tenant’s unpaid and delinquent electric utility fees.
Rental property owners attended the meeting with questions about the provision requiring owners to sign a tenant’s utility application and assume responsibility for any unpaid and delinquent fees. Several property owners said they were notified of the changes by a letter that went out prior to a final vote from council on the ordinance.
Those who spoke during the public hearing raised objections to being held liable for a tenant’s unpaid electricity bills. Owners also questioned whether this was a new addition to the ordinance and whether the provision would be enforced.
“The idea of personal responsibility, I don’t think, has been lost from our society as a whole,” said former mayor and councilman Pat Hale, who manages rental properties in the area. “You’re asking owners to allow somebody they don’t know to come in and live in their property … and then they skip and run, which tenants tend to do, and stick the owner with the bill that they shouldn’t be responsible for.”
He added that he believes striking the requirement from the ordinance is “the right way to go.”
The ordinance would have made several modifications, including the amendments also included the elimination of the certificate of occupancy and contribution by intervening owners requirements, changes to design standards, the addition of language regarding micro-wireless facilities, and changes in processes for electric extension, City Manager Tim Eggleston said.
“Section 53.01 was modified to clarify that the city is following the National Electric Safety Code,” Eggleston said.
Eggleston noted that the city loses money every year in unpaid fees, including electric, water, sewer and trash. According to emails between Eric Mack, deputy director of municipal services and engineering, and utility billing supervisor Stacie Brown, the city has written off an average of $16,452 each year for utilities.
“Historically, the city has held landlords responsible for water, sewer and trash. We have not held the landlords responsible for electric and we do write off approximately $15,000 a year that is just absorbed in the budget,” Finance Director John Green said. “It is interesting to note that this is not a change from the current legislation.”
He pointed to a section of the city’s current code that says the property owner of record is responsible for the payment of electric bills.
“This is not a major change, the change is for the property owner to acknowledge it. That being said, this was passed in 1990 and has never been enforced,” he added.
Councilwoman Carrie Arblaster said that she is not in favor of language requiring property owners to take responsibility for tenants’ unpaid utility bills.
“I believe that that is the responsibility of the consumer, not the property owner,” she said.
Councilman Frank Scenna withdrew his sponsorship of the ordinance and council let the motion die for lack of a sponsor.
Council agreed to revisit the ordinance at their Aug. 20 work session, with plans to vote on another version at a later date.
In other business, council approved several purchases for the renovation of the city’s substation No. 1. Those purchases include:
• Structures, bussing and switches at a cost of $164,880 from Tatman Associates of Cleveland.
• Two 69kV (kilovolt) breakers at a cost of $78,398 from Siemens Industry of Richland, Mississippi.
• One 69–12.47 kV, 18 MVA Power Transformer at a cost of $340,304 from Pennsylvania Transformer Technology.
• One lineup indoor 15 kV switchgear at a cost of $350,000 from Advanced Power Technologies of LaFayette, Indiana.
• Twelve 333 KVA voltage regulators and one 69kV circuit switcher at a cost of $222,240 from Professional Electric Products Company of Eastlake, Ohio.
Council also approved a one-year agreement with Tipp City Schools to provide police services at various school locations, functions and events.
Reach Cecilia Fox at firstname.lastname@example.org.