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Utility bill 'dead on arrival' after landlord complaints

Utility bill 'dead on arrival' after landlord complaints

Council opts to pursue business practice changes before making landlords liable for renter bills

April 16th, 2014 in News

After three landlords spoke out against a proposed, tentative ordinance that would make them liable for their tenants' utility bills during the comment period of Tuesday's City Council meeting, Fulton Mayor LeRoy Benton told the council it likely wouldn't even have to turn the measure down.

"I think that's dead on arrival," Benton said. "I don't plan on bringing that to you."

Benton said that after an outpouring of public comment at a Utility Board meeting and a town hall meeting and after landlords read in the Fulton Sun that the bill had been discussed, the city would opt to find another way to try and cut the $170,000 in annual losses it sees to delinquent renter accounts.

The bill was originally planned to both inform landlords their properties had utilities shut off - something city officials say they cannot divulge to anyone who is not a ratepayer for the property due to privacy laws - and to mitigate loss when renters vacate properties. Landlords reacted, saying they should not be held liable for someone else's bill.


At the start of the meeting, Benton also took time to address a petition Fulton resident Kathy Segerson had filed to circulate to have the city's utility billing process audited by the state.

"I want to assure the citizens that my administration will cooperate fully if enough signatures are obtained, but I have concerns with costs," Benton said, noting the city already undergoes an independent audit every year that looks at every aspect of city finances, including utility billing.

"I invite any citizen who has concerns they'd like the independent audit to address, to let me know," he said. "And if they'd like to schedule a meeting with the auditor at both parties' convenience, I will (work to that). I hope to limit the expense of another audit, and City Hall has past audits available at request."

Benton said questions can be given to him directly or in mail in a sealed envelope in City Hall, or electronically to mayor@fultonmo.org.