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Will this only affect new lease agreements, or if we have an active lease in place before January 1st, are we responsible for those tenants’ water liabilities?
It only affects new City utility accounts coming into existence after December 31, 2022. For instance, if a landlord and tenant extended or renewed a lease that expired on March 31, 2023, there would not be a need for a new City utility account or change of responsibility. It would only be when the tenant moved and closed the City’s account that the property owner would be required to start service in their name. The requirement that new accounts be in the property owner’s name only applies to residential properties, not commercial or industrial properties.
Just as now, the property owner would not be responsible for any accounts in a tenant’s name.
Will the city offer a continuous service landlord agreement like Intermountain Gas and Idaho Power offer that automatically notifies the landlord in writing if a tenant has an account that is late, if service is going to be shut off, or has been turned off and allows us to opt to have utilities automatically transfer to the business when a tenant ends service?
Not at this time. The need for such a service will diminish over time as more and more account holders are the property owner.
Will the city make available to the landlord the last 24 months of utilities for each unit where tenants have been renting?
Yes, starting November 1, 2022, the City will provide that information with a simple email request to firstname.lastname@example.org listing the addresses in question.
Will taxpayers have the right to shut off water for those who do not pay?
Best practices are for a landlord to include the cost of the City’s utilities in the rent, although a property owner could certainly send a separate billing to a tenant for the utilities. The Idaho Attorney General publishes a Landlord and Tenant Manual. Under the heading “Unlawful Evictions” it states “Landlords may not engage in any form of self-help to force a tenant out of a rental property. It is unlawful for a landlord to …Shut off the utilities”.
I’m worried tenants will think the water is now free and my costs will go up?
This has not been the experience of neighboring communities that have implemented the policy. Shower, clothes washer, dishwasher, faucet, and toilet use are all driven by behaviors that don’t vary. Outside irrigation is most often under the direct or indirect control of the landlord.
I use a property manager. Can I put the utility account in the name of my property manager?
Accounts must be in the name of the property owner as it is recorded on the County tax rolls. However, monthly billings can be emailed or mailed wherever it makes the most sense.
I’ve dealt with an angry tenant. Do I now have to worry that an upset tenant will 'overrun' utilities at my rental as they leave?
Over half the City is equipped with cellular meters. After signing up with a third-party vendor, account holders can track water consumption in real time. They can get customized alerts by text or email for situations where water use is abnormal, including potential water leaks. It will take three to five years to finish installing these new meters on all residences in the City, but there is an option to “Skip the Line” and get an earlier installation than scheduled. More information will be available on the City’s website TFID.ORG under the Water Department in January 2023.