Forest Park landlords will no longer have the option to have their tenants billed directly for water service following action by the Forest Park Village Council at their Feb. 8 meeting.
The council agreed to eliminate the internal policy that allows property owners to have water bills mailed directly to tenants. Because the ordinance addressing water billing assigns responsibility to landlords, no amendment was required and no vote taken. However, no objections were raised by commissioners when asked by Mayor Anthony Calderone.
The policy being eliminated affects only properties with a single occupant, such as a single-family home that is being rented or a commercial property housing a business operated by someone other than the property owner.
According to village records, of the 195 rental properties with the water bill in a tenant’s name, 134 are single-family accounts, 55 are commercial accounts and six are two-unit accounts.
Some concerns were raised, however.
Commissioner Joseph Byrnes said he believed the water bills “should just go back to the owner if we give them enough time to work that into any rental agreements with tenants.”
Calderone agreed, stating, “We don’t want to jam anybody up.”
Commissioner Rachell Entler questioned whether landlords know the amounts of their tenants’ water bills, adding, “We need to give them the opportunity to make a best-guess estimate.”
Village Clerk Vanessa Moritz explained that landlords are informed of their tenants’ water bills only if the tenants are delinquent, but Calderone noted that information is available on request.
“All we want to do is our very best,” he added. “We want to help the landlord make the transition.”
Calderone suggested that a two-year history of water billing be included with the initial notice the village sends to property owners.
Commissioner Dan Novak questioned the senior citizen discount, asking if it would be available to a tenant who is not a senior citizen but whose landlord is.
Moritz explained that the landlord can claim the senior rate only if he or she lives in the building.
Village staff will send notices to landlords and tenants of the affected properties announcing the change in policy and providing a new application to be completed by the property owner. After three months, a second notice will be sent to those who have not complied.
Responding to questions raised at the Jan. 25 council meeting, village staff provided the commissioners with statistics showing that 23 tenants have accounts that are delinquent 90 days or more. Of that group, 17 single-family accounts owe a total of $9,732, two two-unit accounts owe a total of $657 and four commercial accounts owe a total of $40,996. Of the delinquent commercial total, $40,202 is owed by a single account.
The memo, which drew compliments from Calderone, also showed that 2,316 of the 3,297 water accounts are residential. Of the remaining accounts, 282 are senior citizen, 337 are multi-family (defined as three or more units) and 335 are industrial/commercial.
Calderone also suggested that the village investigate a study of current water rates.
He noted that the village so far this year has not received a rate increase from the city of Chicago, which supplies the village water. He instructed village staff to obtain a proposal from the village auditors to undertake such a study.