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Niles landlords may sue over ordinance

Published: Fri, January 7, 2011 @ 12:04 a.m.

By Jordan Cohen



“Why should the residents of Niles have to pay someone else’s delinquent bills? ... We didn’t put the tenant there — you did,” said Niles Councilman Steve Papalas, D-at-large, responding to landlords who didn’t like an ordinance holding landlords responsible for delinquent city utility bills run up by their tenants.

The ordinance could wind up in court.

City council passed the ordinance as an emergency measure at its meeting Wednesday despite protests from numerous landlords who crowded council chambers. The vote was unanimous.

Mayor Ralph Infante said Niles is losing “an average of $150,000 a year over the past 10 years” from nonpayment of utility bills. Niles provides water, electric and sewer services to residents and businesses.

Several landlords challenged Infante to prove that tenants are responsible for the bulk of the delinquencies. The mayor did not provide any proof or documentation but offered an estimate that “75 [percent] to 80 percent” of the delinquencies were from tenants.

Should landlords fail to pay their tenants’ delinquent utilities, the ordinance authorizes the city to shut off service, to refuse to initiate or restore it, or to place a lien against the property for the amount that is owed.

One of the landlords, Rodney Freel, said he and his counterparts will consider suing the city.

“Making landlords responsible won’t solve the problems,” said Freel, a Niles firefighter. Freel, the owner of what he described as “numerous properties,” recently formed a landlords association and plans to discuss the possibility of legal action with association members.

“This is going to force me to limit my investment in my properties,” Freel said after the meeting. “In this economy, there is only so much you can charge for rent.”

Tom Telego, billing office manager, said that prior to passing the ordinance, the city could only attempt to recover money from tenants through a collection agency. “With a homeowner, we could shut off [utilities] but we couldn’t with a landlord who could always bring in a new tenant and we’d have to provide service.”

The ordinance also applies to commercial properties, but the manager of Niles’ largest shopping area, Eastwood Mall, said that he does not expect it to impact operations.

“We have safeguards and procedures in place and we’ve been pretty efficient in managing our tenant responsibilities,” said Ken Kollar, mall general manager. Nonetheless, Kollar said the Cafaro Corporation, the mall’s owner, will likely contact the city to discuss the new regulations.

The ordinance takes effect in 30 days, but one councilman held out hope that there could be some changes despite the vote. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see us tweak this thing before it’s all over,” said Michael Lastic, D-at-large.


1ytownsteelman(680 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

Yes Kim, if gas station owners make the laws!

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2Traveler(606 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

The differences between a gas station and a public utility is one is owned by a private company and one is owned by the government and the only people allowed to steal from the government are bankers.

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3logicexists(1 comment)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

Yes, Enterprise would have to pay for the gas and then Enterprise would charge the person's credit card for the gas as well as any fines allowable within their contract. So if the landlord rents to 4 different renters in one year and none of them pay their utility bills...who do you suggest pay the bill? It's going to end up being those of us who do pay our bills in the form of an increase. He picks the folks he rents to and if he doesn't check to see if they paid their bills before, then it is his own fault. I own my house - I pay my utilities. He owns the rental property...you do the math.

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4iBuck(231 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

No, based on the license plate, Enterprise would disclose the kkkredit kkkard info, name and address to the police and they would put the rentee/lessee in jail for theft of the gasoline, and the judge would award restitution to the gas station owner.

The difference between a gas station and a public utility is that one is a private business competing for customers and the other is a government-enforced monopoly. Both should be private businesses competing for customers on the basis of price and quality of service.

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5JoeSmith(4 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

I own rentals in Niles and I don't think I should have to pay for water and electric that I don't use. Niles city collects a $250 deposit for this, what are they doing with that? If someone goes over the $250 which would be probably ate least 2 months then shut the damn utilities off.
I think you'll see alot of the investors that have bought older homes/duplexes will sell or no longer put the money that they have to make the properties look good. They will get by with them the way they are.

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6seminole(476 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

Scum slumlords should be held responsible for the bills. Maybe they should do a background check on the folks they rent to before hurrying to sign a lease just to get their units rented. Responsibility is wanning away in this country due to exactly this kind of lack of accountability. When you reap the rewards of your tenants then sack up and bite the bullet when one of your upstanding renters blows out of town and leaves you with the bill. Or can the rest of us get a hand-out too?...

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7Traveler(606 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

If so many are skipping out with there bill unpaid why doesn't the city of Niles raise the deposit of people with no or bad credit.

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