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Whose arrears are these?

Monday, May 1, 2017

Village of Canal Flats

David, a manufactured home park owner in the Village of Canal Flats, had tenants of the park register for municipal water and sewage services directly. In January 2015, the village notified him of its intention to charge him arrears for unpaid sewer and water charges incurred by his tenants between 2010 and 2014, amounting to approximately $6,000. The village notified him that moving forward it would no longer bill his tenants for these services, but would bill him directly. The village informed David that in the event he failed to pay the arrears, the outstanding amounts would be added to his property tax bill. David felt he had little choice – so he paid. David maintained that despite owning the property for approximately five years, the village’s January 2015 letter was the first notice he received that any arrears were owed for water and sewer charges incurred by his tenants or that he might have any liability for their failure to pay.

David questioned whether the village had the legal authority to impose the arrears. In response to his concerns, the village determined that he was no longer required to pay the arrears for 2010 to 2013 inclusive, but that he would still be charged for the 2014 arrears and any new charges for 2015 onward. He asked the village to give reasons explaining why the arrears for 2014 were treated differently than those for 2010 to 2013, but did not receive a satisfactory response. Looking for answers, David turned to us for help. We confirmed that for the calendar year 2014, the village initially billed the water and sewer fees to each of David’s tenants and that eight tenants had not paid. We also confirmed that in response to David’s concerns about the fairness billing him for 2010 to 2014, the village had retracted the water and sewer fees for 2010 to 2013. However, the village maintained that he was responsible for the eight unpaid tenant bills for 2014, and for all tenants for 2015 onward. We questioned the village’s rationale behind their decision to rescind the bill for 2010 to 2013 but not 2014. The village initially advised us that their bylaws required the village to bill the property owner for water and sewer fees. This raised questions about the basis upon which the village billed the tenants for 2010 to 2014. In response to our questions in this regard, the village said they would review the matter, and subsequently took it before Council for further consideration.

Council subsequently passed a resolution that the village refund David $3,786 for water and sewer charges when the village billed him. Following receipt of the refund, David questioned the amount of the refund the village provided as he believed he should receive interest in amount similar to what the village charged citizens for arrears. We asked if the village would consider adding interest, and if so, to provide an explanation for how they determined the interest rate. In response, the village confirmed that David would be provided a cheque for interest in the amount of $59, which was calculated in accordance with section 239 of the Community Charter and rates set by the provincial government.

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