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The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

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Landlords in Oak Harbor tired of paying delinquent utility bills for debtor renters are asking the village to raise its utility deposit fee.

Jess Burdine, a landlord in the village since 1974, was upset he had to pay a $271 electric bill on Monday for a tenant who had taken off after not paying him rental payments.

Burdine told village council at its Monday meeting that the bill had been $371 but that village officials in the utilities office had subtracted the $100 deposit to come up with the final sum.

Oak Harbor provides its own electricity through a partnership with AMP Ohio. Village ordinances default unpaid bills at rental units to the property owners.

Councilwoman Donna Wendt asked if village staff had made Burdine aware of the unpaid bill.

The landlord said he receives a village advisory when tenants don’t pay a bill. He asked them to shut off the electricity when the bill reached the deposit amount. They couldn’t, they told him. The problem is the process involved in trying to recoup payment drags on while the electric bill continues to climb, Burdine said.

“I know my job pretty well. The problem I have is with the utility deposit of $100. But they don’t shut off the electric until the bill is $300 to $400. Why can’t they increase the utility deposit? It’s an antiquated number,” Burdine said.

He suggested $200 would be more in line.

Burdine also pointed out that this particular rental has natural gas heat. The electric bill accumulated from use of the hot water heater, the range and the electrical service.

“You’re quite in the arrears if (the bill’s) $371,” Burdine told council.

Burdine added that it was time for council to consider making the adjustment.

“A landlord is a vital part of the community – I am telling you. And it’s only been in recent years that this has become a problem.”

Adam Snyder, another landlord in town, agreed with Burdine. He suggested $225 to $250 was more in line for the deposit.

He noted landlords were in a precarious position. They may not be getting their rent money but “they can’t pull the meter because that would be considered retaliation,” Snyder said. Still, renters continue to use the service with no intention of paying the bills.

“If you’re a good tenant, you pay your bill. And in the end, you’re going to get your (deposit) back,” Burdine added.

If not, the higher deposit means landlords won’t be left shouldering the bulk of other people’s debts, they said.

Mayor Bill Eberle and council members agreed to address the proposal at the next utilities committee meeting.

They also asked fiscal clerk Debbie Carpenter to gather all the specifics of the case that Burdine spoke to them about to help them possibly hone village procedures.

“We want the dates, times and amounts of how this accrued,” the mayor said.

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