Late payers get faster turnoffs for district users

Published on Wed, Feb 19, 2014 by Nathan Dalla Santa

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The grace period for Birch Bay Water and Sewer District’s (BBWSD) billing has gotten way shorter. 

In response to requests from  landlords in Birch Bay, district officials have cut the grace period for nonpayment from two billing cycles down to one.

When an owner rents out property, the responsibility to pay the water bill ultimately falls back on that owner if their tenants fail to make timely payments. 

Often landlords can be faced with large debts incurred by their tenants, BBWSD information services specialist Dustin Sellinger said. 

Since each payment period covers two months of service, the previous policy allowed tenants to owe for four months of utility service before a shutoff occurred.

The hope is that by sending out a warning to overdue accounts that they will be disconnected after one lapsed billing period, people will pay their water utility bill before they incur too much debt. 

The move is not an attempt to gather more revenue for the district, Sellinger said. The district is almost always able to collect the bills eventually, since no one is willing to go too long without water and BBWSD has a monopoly on that resource. Additionally, a property cannot be sold before discharging the debt.

“Usually we can just wait them out if they don’t want to pay their bill,” Sellinger said. There is a $35 shutoff and reconnection fee for delinquent accounts. In most cases the bill is paid and water restored within a day or two. 

However there are many residents who do not live in Birch Bay yearround and may not notice the shutoff immediately.

The district is still crunching the numbers to determine exactly how many more people have had their water shut off in the latest billing cycle compared to past cycles. A doubling of shutoffs is a reasonable expectation when halving a grace period, but Sellinger believes the number will be lower than that. The district should have statistics on the changes within the week, Sellinger said.