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Landlords ask for summit with city to discuss water utility issues

Group of 17 landlords and property managers who have been meeting for eight months collectively pay about $700,000 in annual property taxes.
running faucet tap water stock image
A group of Thompson landlords appeared before council at their Nov. 15 meeting to ask the City of Thompson to agree to meet with them for discussions on issues related to the city water utility.

A group of Thompson landlords and property managers are hoping to meet with members of city council to discuss common water bill issues they face.

Susan Harrison of Allied Rentals and Volker Beckmann appeared as a delegation on behalf of themselves and 15 other group members at the Nov. 15 council meeting, reading a letter that has been sent to the city and referred to the legislative and finance committee.

Together, Harrison said, the landlords pay about $700,000 in annual property taxes and have identified more than two dozen unspecified issues that they want to work with the city to find solutions to.

When metered billing for water usage was introduced to Thompson a decade ago, landlords became responsible for their tenants’ unpaid water bills if the city was unable to collect what it is owed.

The letter Harrison read identified concerns the landlords have with the number of water and sewer breaks in Thompson, $1.3 million in unpaid water bills, the number of complaints filed over the water utility with the Public Utilities Board of Manitoba and the number of outstanding lawn repairs resulting from water breaks that the city has yet to complete.

Harrison said the aim of the group, which has been meeting for about eight months, is to help the city improve guidelines and protocols for water billing issues and to reduce disputes between the city and landlords, among other things.

Coun. Les Ellsworth said community involvement with the city is the right way to go.

“I believe that discussions, if they’re done in the right way, it not only benefits the business owners but it’s also going to benefit the individual homeowners. $700,000 in taxes is a lot fo money so thank you for coming.”

The fact that there are problems with water billing is no secret, said Coun. Jeff Fountain, who plans to call a special meeting of council to discuss the issue.

“We all know these problems exist and that they need to be addressed and I hope that with the start of the special meeting that we can start doing that not only for landlords but for individual homeowners as well,” he said. “We’ve all seen inaccurate billings, sometimes billings that are all over the place for individual owners. These things need to be addressed as soon as possible.”

Coun. Kathy Valentino and Mayor Colleen Smook both said that they hope the $34 million Thompson is receiving from the federal-provincial Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program to replace about 18 kilometres of water and sewer lines over the next five years will reduce the number of costly water breaks the city has to repair down the line.

“A lot of our infrastructure is that 60-year-old infrastructure that we need to be working on,” the mayor said.

The landlords group asked to be notified by Nov. 30 who the city representatives in the discussions will be so that they can schedule the first meeting.