1/15/2013 9:39:00 PM Utility ordinance takes city
out of landlord/tenant fights
Marney Simon Staff writer
Looking for a way to take themselves out of the equation in disputes between landlords and tenants, the members of the Braidwood City Council have made an amendment to the city's utility ordinance regarding who is responsible for bills at a city residence.
On Jan. 8, the city's commissioners approved an amendment to the city's code of ordinances, Chapter 86, for liability of charges for utility services.
The amended ordinance reads, "The liability for any water, sewer, garbage or any other provided city utility charges is the responsibility of the owner and shall run with the land. In the event that the utility charges are for premises which are leased, both owner and tenant are jointly and severally responsible for those charges. Bills shall be sent to the owner."
The change removes some of the wording of the original ordinance which had allowed landlords to request that bills be sent directly to tenants.
The major change is the addition of the legal phrase regarding joint and several liability. Under joint and several liability, also referred to as "all sums" liability, the city can choose to pursue collection from either the owner or the tenant of a property. If there is a dispute between the landlord and tenant over who owes that money, they need to figure that out on their own. Essentially, it means that the city can collect from the landlord, who will then be responsible him or herself for repayment.
City officials said the change is in response to being caught in the middle of the occasional dispute between landlord and tenant.
"We've had a few instances pop up between landlords and renters, and we're trying to simplify this for everybody's behalf," said Public Buildings and Property Commissioner Jim Hutton.
"Sometimes the landlords try to evict the renters by having us shut the water off, but we can't do that, so we're tired of getting caught in the middle," added Mayor Bill Rulien. "They need to go to court and do the eviction properly, so we're not getting involved in it."
The council approved the amendment 5-0. But while the ordinance amendment was passed, the council will continue to work on possible tweaks. After the meeting, city officials met briefly with some local landlords who were worried about the ordinance leaving them in a tough position when it comes to collecting from their tenants.
City officials said they're just trying to make sure everyone is covered.
"We're trying to protect the landlord and the renter," Hutton noted.
The city may revisit the issue at an upcoming council meeting.