(a) Delinquent water accounts. Accounts shall be considered delinquent when any portion of the balance exceeds 30 days past due and no arrangement for payment has been agreed to by both the Utilities Division and the owner or the owner’s duly authorized property manager.
(b) Disconnection of service. It shall be the duty of the Utility Division to endeavor to promptly collect delinquent accounts, and in all cases where satisfactory arrangements for payment have not been made, the Utility Division reserves the right to discontinue service by shutting off the water at the stop box. However, if the discontinuance of water service would affect the primary heat source for a residential unit, no shut-off may occur in the absence of an emergency situation or threat to the water supply if all of the following conditions are present:
(1) The disconnection would occur during the period between October 15 and April 15;
(2) The owner has declared inability to pay on forms provided by the Utility Division;
(3) The household income of the owner is less than 185% of the federal poverty level, as documented by the owner to the Utility Division; and
(4) The account is current for the billing period immediately prior to October 15 or the owner has entered into a payment schedule and is reasonably current with payments under the schedule.
(c) Notice of disconnection and opportunity to be heard. Before disconnection of service to a residential unit, reasonable notice by mail shall be provided to the property owner and any occupant of the property at least 15 days prior to the date of disconnection. The notice must include:
(1) The telephone number and address of the Utility Division and that the property owner or resident will be afforded a reasonable opportunity to be heard prior to the intended disconnection;
(2) The reason for the intended disconnection;
(3) The date on which the intended disconnection is to occur;
(4) The amount past due, as well as the amount currently owing on the account, including applicable late fees, service charges and penalties;
(5) Whether or not any security deposit will be required to maintain uninterrupted service and the amount of that security deposit;
(6) That the Utility Division will accept payment at any time during business hours prior to termination; and
(7) During the period of October 15 and April 15, where the property owner has notified the city that discontinuance of water service would affect the primary heat source for a residential unit on the property, the notice must include either a written explanation of the owner’s rights and responsibilities, a list of local energy assistance providers, and any other opportunities to secure continued service, along with forms on which to declare inability to pay, or the telephone number for the Utility Division representative from whom that information might be obtained.
(d) Discontinuance of service to accounts affecting tenants. Where the property owner has rented out the property for residential purposes and the delinquent water account has or will result in a disconnection of service, the tenant or group of tenants may pay the amount due and owing on the account along with any applicable administrative charge, late fee, penalty and security deposit required to maintain uninterrupted service. This payment may qualify as a rent payment pursuant to the provisions of M.S. § 504B.215, as it may be amended from time to time.
(e) Cold weather months. During the period of October 15 and April 15, no disconnection of water service that would affect the primary heat source for a residential unit may occur if all of the criteria set forth in subsections (b)(1) through (b)(4) are present until at least 20 days after the mailing of the notice of disconnection or 15 days after the notice has been personally served on the owner. If there is no response to the notice, the Utility Division must serve the notice on any residential occupant of the property served or post the property. The disconnection must not occur on a Friday or on the day before a holiday. If prior to the disconnection the owner or occupant appeals to the Utility Division, that appellant must be given ten days to provide documentation and written argument to the Utility Division relevant to the proposed disconnection. Within ten days of its receipt of these documents, the Utility Division shall make a determination of whether or not to disconnect water service based upon the owner’s ability to pay, effect on the primary heat source for the residential unit, the owner’s payment history on this account and other city accounts, and whether or not a payment plan would constitute a viable alternative to disconnection. Ten-day written notice of the determination must be provided to the owner and occupant of the property prior to any disconnection.
(f) Assessment of delinquent accounts. All delinquent accounts shall be certified to the City Assessor who shall prepare an assessment roll each year providing for assessment of the delinquent amounts against the respective properties served. The assessment shall include the amount of the delinquent account and the administrative charge due under Article VI of this chapter, together with interest thereon at the maximum lawful rate. This assessment roll shall be delivered to the City Council for adoption on or before October 1 of each year.
(g) Reconnection after disconnection for non-payment. Prior to reconnection of water service following disconnection for non-payment, the total amount due and owing for all city utilities must be paid, as well as all service charges, late fees, penalties associated therewith and any security deposit required by Utility Billing pursuant to subsection (h) below.
(h) Deposit required. The Utility Division, at any time and at its discretion, may require a security deposit when there is a previous past due balance owing on any city utility account or property held by that property owner, a history of delinquencies, notice that the property owner has filed for bankruptcy or a disconnection of water service due to non-payment. The minimum amount of the security deposit shall be $50 with a maximum security deposit equal to the greater of two average consecutive city utility bills in the past 12-month period at the service address or $250. However, if the property owner is unable to pay the maximum deposit and has a credit history demonstrating little risk of nonpayment, then the Utility Division may reduce the deposit to any reasonable amount not less than $50. The requirement of a security deposit shall be based solely on account history and not based upon source of income, residential location, employment tenure, nature of occupation, race, color, creed, sex, marital status, age, national origin or any other criteria which does not bear a reasonable relationship to the assurance of payment. The security deposit must be in the form of cash or cash equivalent. The Utility Division shall keep records of accounts from which deposits are collected, and the amounts, and the distribution, if any, of such deposits. Receipts shall be issued for the deposits. Interest shall be paid on deposits in the amount and manner set forth by M.S. § 325E.02, as it may be amended from time to time.
(i) Use of security deposit. If, at any time, prompt payment is not received for any city utility charges billed and the property owner has a security deposit with the Utility Division, then the Utility Division is authorized to automatically draw from the security deposit an amount equal to the past due charges owing on any city utility account of the property owner. If any charges are not paid, and remain overdue for 85 days, then the Utility Division must apply any available security deposit to the payment of the overdue charges. The property owner must replenish the security deposit within 30 days of the date the city notifies the owner by mail of the draw upon the security deposit in the amount necessary to maintain a deposit balance in the amount originally required or such greater amount as required by the Utility Division under the same conditions set out in this section of city code. Whenever the Utility Division applies the security deposit to the payment of charges, it shall send written notice of its action to the property owner by mail within 25 days. Said notice must include a demand for replenishment of the security deposit, including the specific dollar amount required, along with a warning that failure to replenish the deposit will result in a termination of water service. If the property owner fails to make the required security deposit within 30 days of a demand, the Utility Division may terminate service to the property as provided in § 11.07. If the property owner has more than one account or is receiving city utility service at more than one property, security for any account or property may be applied and used for any other city utility account or property of that property owner.
(j) Release of deposit. The deposit required pursuant to this Article I, along with any interest accruing thereon, may be released to the property owner under the following conditions:
(1) After a 12-month period during which all bills sent for city utility charges have been promptly paid on or before the due date listed on the bills, except where the property owner is currently in bankruptcy;
(2) Where the owner has filed for bankruptcy protection the deposit will continue to be held for the duration of the bankruptcy proceeding and until such time thereafter that a 12 month history of prompt payment has been established or earlier termination of all business with the Utility Division; and
(3) Whenever a property owner terminates all business with the Utility Division, the amount of such security deposit shall be applied against the property’s final bill for service, and the property owner shall be given, within 45 days, a written accounting of the disposition of the security deposit and any remainder thereof.
(k) Authority to establish guidelines. The Chief Financial Officer for the city, in consultation with the Public Works Director, shall have the authority to adopt, implement, revise and maintain internal policies and procedures consistent with this chapter for the purpose of specifying the manner of: establishing and maintaining utility accounts; utility billing; handling delinquent utility accounts; and the appropriateness and manner of discontinuing and reconnecting water service.
(1958 Code, § 30.07) (Ord. 225, passed 2-15-1960; Ord. 63-37, passed 10-7-1963; Ord. 70-14, passed 4-20-1970; Ord. 81-18, passed 5-4-1981; Ord. 91-48, passed 7-1-1991; Ord. 96-60, passed 11-4-1996; Ord. 2005-28, passed 7-18-2005)