Fulton Apartment Renter Cautious about Utility Ordinance

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FULTON - A possible ordinance that would make both landlords and tenants liable for late utility payments has one local renter worried about her family. 

The Fulton Utility Board considered the idea at its monthly meeting as a solution to keep landlords up to date on tenants whose utilities have been shut off so the landlords can prevent possible property damage. The ordinance is also intended to help prevent unnecessary loss of money from unpaid bills in empty apartments.

Chief Financial Officer Kathy Holschlag said the idea came from various landlords and property managers who have made requests to be notified when the city is shutting off utilities in their properties. She said various policies prevent the city from sharing utility information with anyone but the customer currently. 

Sunshine Hane is the manager of Missouri Association of the Deaf Apartments and said she supports the potential ordinance.

"I know I have had several of my properties get utilities turned off in just the last year, and if it wasn't for my maintenance staff being observant, our properties could've been damaged," Hane said. 

She said when power is shut off in the winter months and no one from management is notified, it's easy for pipes to freeze and burst. This causes damages that may not even be discovered until later. 

Penelope Mantle is a resident of Missouri Association of the Deaf Apartments and a single mother. She said she likes the idea of joint responsibility because she struggles to make enough money to support her family every month.

"The price of food and all that is going up, and it makes it hard for single parents to even live in this world," Mantle said. "Trying to pay electric and rent is hard and I can't afford it."

However, Mantle said she feared landlords would call officials to take her son away if they were notified every time she can't afford a utility bill. 

"It depends on how some landlords are around here," said Mantle. "I know a couple with kids like me whose electricity got shut off and they had family services called on them by the landlord."

Mantle said her electricity was cut off recently when temperatures were below freezing for about three days and said she had family services called on her as well. 

"As soon as it got shut off I up and left because I was in fear that they would take the baby away and I wanted to make sure he was in a safe environment."

Mantle said she sought out friends and family to help her pay her utility bill to get her electricity back on, but said she has been evicted for not being able to pay for it in the past. 

"I couldn't afford to pay for it and now I have to move because my lease has been terminated."

Mantle said she wishes there were other options for affordable living in Fulton so she could pay her utility bill and not have to worry about losing her son. 

Holschlag said the ordinance is in its preliminary stages and has been left on the table to be discussed again at future utility board meetings. If the utility board decides to pursue it, the next step would be to recommend the ordinance to Fulton City Council.