Residents strike out in bids for relief from utility bills

September 14, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Pickford

Orangeville Town Council showed no sympathy this week to two separate groups of local residents seeking assistance in paying off their Orangeville Hydro bills.

Council first heard from Vedraj Jadhav, a local renter who, along with three roommates, reside in a property on Broadway. Over the past four months, Mr. Jadhav reported receiving “drastically increased” hydro bills, largely attributed to a surge in the property’s water charges. After paying a bill totalling more than $1,000 in May, Mr. Jadhav says he and his roommates have since incurred another $4,000 in utility charges.

“It’s really high for us to afford,” says Mr. Jadhav, a hospitality worker employed at Hockley Valley Resort.

Having reached out to Orangeville Hydro at the turn of summer, Mr. Jadhav told council he was informed the issue was likely the result of a water leak somewhere on the property. He informed his landlord, who immediately brought a plumber in to find the source of the problem.

“The plumber couldn’t find anything wrong,” Mr. Jadhav said.

Town staff visited the property in July and August, carrying out several water meter readings, which, according to Doug Jones, the Town’s General Manager of Infrastructure Services, didn’t show anything irregular. He informed Mr. Jadhav that the issue may have corrected itself somewhere along the way, and that the household was still receiving bloated bills because Orangeville Hydro’s billing cycle was often behind the read cycle.

“It is possible some of the recent bills captured a period of time when there was an issue. I could ask staff to go out and take more reads… The challenge we had back in July and August, when we did the reads, is that there didn’t appear to be an issue at that time,” Mr. Jones said. “When we get these complaints, we do what we can to see what the cause of the issue may have been, but, ultimately, the water has flowed through the meter. Once the water has passed through, the sale has been made. There is no provision (within our bylaws) to provide relief for this issue.”

When asked by Coun. Nick Garisto to break his monthly bills down, Mr. Jadhav explained that, prior to May, the household’s monthly utility expenses topped out at $300. In May, the bill was more than $900,’ increasing to $1,200 in June and $1,400 in July. Their most recent bill, dated in August, came in just north of $1,000.

Coun. Garisto asked that Council consider giving Mr. Jadhav a one-time payment of $1,000 to help pay down the debt. Coun. Sylvia Bradley noted that, because this is a rental property, the burden should fall on the landlord to figure out the issue and provide some form of assistance. Mayor Jeremy Williams echoed Mr. Jones’ sentiments that Council’s hands were effectively tied on this issue.

“I have a big heart, and I feel for you and your roommates. It’s not fair, but we have to do things in a certain way. If we were to give you $1,000 or $2,000 to help pay this off, then that would be adding to other residents’ bills. We have to be fair to everyone,” Mayor Williams said. “I would strongly suggest you shut the water off in areas of the house one-by-one to locate where the problem is.”

Immediately following that delegation, Council heard from another resident asking that a fee of $571.23 be waived from a previously unpaid utility bill. Marvic Vella owns a rental property in town and, she said, her previous tenants vacated her property without first paying off a final monthly Orangeville Hydro bill. All attempts to reach the previous tenants had been unsuccessful, leading Ms. Vella to request some level of assistance.

“I have no problem paying any amount racked up during the time the property was vacant, but I don’t think it’s fair that I’m expected to pay this bill when I didn’t incur the charges,” Ms. Vella stated.

Coun. Garisto was fairly blunt with Ms. Vella, saying he had no sympathy for her regarding this issue and advised that, in future, she take a deposit of some sort prior to tenants moving into her property to protect herself from this happening again. Ms. Vella noted she has since done that with other renters, but that in this instance she was “doing a favour” for a family member of a friend, so didn’t require a deposit. She also noted utility bills at the site were kept in her name, so as to “make things easier” for the individuals living there.

Mayor Williams noted there didn’t appear to be any appetite at Council to offer assistance in this situation and advised Ms. Vella to continue seeking out her previous tenants.

“We don’t get involved in tenant collections, or that sort of thing. When you decide to have a business renting out a property, you have to supply certain things, and do certain things. If people abuse that, that’s where you, as a landlord have to chase down the tenant,” Mayor Williams said. “I don’t think there’s anyone on Council here who is interested in even looking at this particular situation.”

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