Genoa officials are about to challenge former residents who rent and run, leaving overdue utility bills in their wake.
Village council recently approved the hiring of a collections agency to track down those who left town without paying past due utility bills.
Finding these people who have skipped on the bills falls to the firm of Scheer, Green and Burke, L.P.A.
Village Solicitor Brian Ballenger told council the agreement is a standard one used by other communities.
The village will receive at least two-thirds of the money recovered, said Village Administrator Kevin Gladden. The firm receives one third of the debt for its effort.
“The way we see it, two-thirds of something is better than nothing,” Gladden said.
Gladden met with firm representatives on Friday to discuss their plan of attack.
The unpaid utility bills – including water, sewer and electricity services – totals about $20,000 for cases dating back five years, Gladden said. By law, municipalities can only go back five years for these services in arrears.
Renters who take off without paying is becoming a real problem, especially as household incomes took a wallop following the recession of 2008.
Those bills are ultimately are the responsibility of the landlord. But Genoa officials believe once the lawyers from the collection agency contacts them these long-gone renters are likely to make good on their debts.
The City of Port Clinton has struggled with a similar unpaid water bills situation for years. In September, landlords were set to square off with Port Clinton City Council over its new water bill policy that forced them to pay the debt.
Genoa would rather not go that route for now, believing the debts should fall to the people who actually incurred them, Gladden said.
“We think once people get these letters from attorneys, they will pay their bills,” Gladden said.
If not, the cases could go to court. Should that occur, the firm’s payment percentage jumps to 40 percent for the effort involved in the court process, he said.
The other advantage of hiring the firm is the ability its staff has to affect credit ratings, unlike municipalities who attempt to get the money on their own.
“This way, it will be an issue,” Gladden said, noting these renters could face serious ramifications for ignoring their debts.