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Landlords express concerns with newly adopted utility policy

Posted on Wednesday, December 17, 2014 at 10:57 am

Frank Wallace addressed the City of Vandalia’s Board of Alderman last week.

Frank Wallace addressed the City of Vandalia’s Board of Alderman last week.

During the November meeting for the City of Vandalia’s Board of Aldermen, the board voted on a new utility policy.
Resolution No. 14-08 was one of three options discussed. This one allows only property owners to contract for utility services. This means bills would be sent to property owners, though a landlord could request a renter be billed as well.
Overall, the move made property owners the customer and responsible party. They were in control of the service being connected. Meanwhile, the move allowed deposits to be eliminated and virtually eliminating write-offs, a problem the city was trying to address.
Several landlords showed up to last week’s Board of Aldermen meeting to discuss their concerns during the “Citizens to be Heard” part of the meeting.
“We’re all here because obviously we’re disappointed with the decision you all decided to go with,” said Frank Wallace. “…I wish you all would reconsider…”
Wallace said as he knew, Middletown was the only town in the area that services water, electric, gas, and sewer that requires the landlord to have it in their name.
“This seems to me to be a burden on us,” Wallace added.
Wallace noted that State Statute 441.233.1 says “any landlord or its agent who willfully diminishes services to a tenant by interrupting or causing interruption of essential services, including but not limited to, electric, gas, water or sewer service to the tenant on the premise should be deemed guilty of forcible entry.”
“I don’t know if it’s criminal but I know it’s civil,” Wallace added.
He said landlords will be on the hook for three months rate.
Wallace added that the city has the ability to shut utilities off while the landlords don’t.
He said the law could be up for interpretation by lawyers and he didn’t want to hire a lawyer.
He took an informal poll with three other property owners. He didn’t disclose their names in the meeting.
He said these folks told them they weren’t aware of the policy but would consider getting rid of the property due to the policy.
“It’s going to affect us all, when it is all said and done,” Wallace said in regards to property values.
According to the U.S. Census, Wallace noted that 40% of customers are what the city is now saying they “don’t want to fool with anymore.”
City of Vandalia Mayor Ralph Kuda, Jr. said there were articles on the utility policy in the newspaper but no one attended previous meetings.
Wallace said he didn’t attend the meeting because he felt the policy would be discussed over a process of time and didn’t anticipate a decision to already have been made.
“I appreciate you letting me talk, we do appreciate what you do, but really appreciate it if you would reconsider,” Wallace concluded.
The Vandalia Housing Authority’s Allen Chandler said he has 78 units. With an average bill of $300, it will cost $20,000.

Read the rest of the story in the December 17 issue of The Vandalia Leader or purchase an electronic edition subscription at