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Penticton city council votes to stop disconnecting electricity

March 14, 2016 - 2:30 PM

PENTICTON - City council has amended its utitlity collections and disconnection policy following threats made against an employee last year.

Following the November 2015 incident in which a city electrical subscriber made threatening remarks following the disconnection of his electrical service, the city health and safety committee recommended the adoption of a no disconnect policy to reduce the potential of violence to city staff.

Revenue supervisor Amber Coates says field staff experience confrontational and threatening incidents throughout the year, including threats of violence. She says these types of incidents are on the rise.

The change in the disconnect policy comes at the same time as the city ramps up communication with landlords regarding tenants’ delinquent utility payments. The city wants to place the onus on the property owners to deal with tenants when they are in arrears.

The city will study a move to owner-only accounts where all rental utility accounts would be in the landlord’s name. Staff analysis of customer activity reveals 16.56 per cent of all tenant accounts result in the city having to invoke the collection process, versus 5.28 per cent of property owners.

Coun. Judy Sentes, a former landlord, says it was easier for her to adjust the rent she charged tenants so she paid the utilities.

“That way the utilities got paid for sure and if they didn’t pay their rent there was a far better structured eviction process than if they just don’t pay their utilities, but continue to pay the rent," she says. "So my limited advice to landlords would be to adjust your rents so you can collect and pay the utilities that way.”

Sentes says the safety of city staff is "paramount in this current dilemma.”

To contact the reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad at sarstad@infonews.ca or call 250-488-3065. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016
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