City of Fulton Works to Combat Unpaid Utility Bills

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FULTON - The city of Fulton's utility advisory board is working to solve the problem of unpaid residential utility bills. The biggest issue, the board said, is with final bills once tenants move out.

"It's been an issue for quite some time but the losses increase annually," Kathy Holschlag, Fulton's chief financial officer said.

Holschlag said the city loses roughly $170,000 each year covering delinquent utility bills, often left unpaid when a renter moves.

"When it reached this point, we felt it was our responsibility to notify the utility board, which is what prompted the discussion about landlord liability," she said.

The utility board toyed with a few different options at Monday's board meeting, including one proposed ordinance that would hold landlords jointly responsible for their renters' unpaid bills.

Joan Morris, the owner of real estate company Re/Max Select, said she opposed that particular idea. She, among other Fulton landlords, attended the meeting to voice concerns.

"Usually if someone is going to be moving out without paying their final bill, chances are they're moving out without paying their final month of rent either," Morris said. "So, landlords are already taking a loss on some homes and we just don't want to increase that cost."

Holschlag said the board discussed other options at the meeting, including raising the utility deposit fee or using a credit bureau with a sliding scale for deposits based on credit score.

Morris said she and other landlords plan to attend the city's next council meeting April 15 to continue the discussion of unpaid utility bills.