AWA unlikely to reverse policy

The Altoona Water Authority seems unlikely to reverse its longstanding policy of holding property owners ultimately responsible for paying water and sewer bills, despite a plea from a landlord at a recent meeting.

Thayne Nader has been forced to pay the authority when tenants have departed without paying their bills — once paying $172 and at least once having to file a complaint for reimbursement with a magisterial district justice, Nader told the board.

He certainly can’t hold an incoming tenant responsible for an outgoing tenant’s unpaid water bill — yet why should he be responsible? he asked.

“I didn’t shower there,” he said.

There can be extenuating circumstances, according to Nader: once he floated a payment to a single mother and was paid back quickly, he said.

Conversely, there was a time when his urgency to rent a property didn’t leave him time to do a background check, he said.

The current policy makes landlords vulnerable to tenants, who can wantonly add to the bill they leave behind by turning on the water and letting it run, he said.

Then there are charges levied by the authority for shutting off water to a property and turning it back on — which can compound the problem, he said.

“Surely there’s a way (to provide relief),” he said. “I just don’t want to be stuck.”

The board could take up the issue and get back to him, Chairman Bill Neugebauer said.

But after the meeting, upon being questioned about Nader’s presentation, officials’ comments made a reversal seem unlikely.

Making property owners responsible is standard practice for water service providers, said solicitor Dave Consiglio.

Water service “is tied to the property,” Consiglio said.

It’s with property owners that service providers have leverage, Consiglio indicated.

“Legalities” limit the leverage with tenants, according to General Manager Mark Perry.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.


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