Committee approves Dufault bill that would prevent a city from charging a property owner/tenant for someone else’s utility bill

A bill that would prevent cities from charging a property owner or tenant for utility services provided to a former resident passed the House Civil Rights and Judiciary Committee on Friday.

Rep. Jeremie Dufault introduced House Bill 2069 (originally drafted as House Bill 1705) after learning that constituents were being charged for utility bills they didn't incur.

“One constituent was a soldier who had moved to Central Washington to serve at the Yakima Training Center,” said Dufault, R-Selah. “He was trying to put water and sewer service in his name. He received a bill from a city and it had a new account deposit. It had the first month's service charge, and it had about $250 of a utility carryover from the previous tenant of the property.”

Dufault said the constituent eventually paid the previous tenant's charges just so he could get the water turned on for his family at the new residence.

During a public hearing Feb. 6, one property manager testified he pays as much as $6,000 a year in water and sewer bills left unpaid by previous tenants.

“This is about fairness. You shouldn't be forced to pay someone else's bills before you can have access to water, sewer and other utility services to the property,” Dufault said.

Dufault revised the measure after addressing concerns from the Association of Washington Cities, that cities would not be able to place a utility lien on a property under any circumstances.

“The way that it stands now, it is fair to all parties involved,” Dufault said. “Cities can still hold delinquent payers accountable, but property owners and tenants would no longer be charged for someone else's utility bills.”

The measure passed the committee, 13-2. The bill has been referred to the House Rules Committee for further action.

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov