We hope the following information is useful for owners of rental property in the Muscoda Utilities service area. This is distributed to keep landlords informed of Muscoda Utilities collection procedures. If you have questions on the information below, please contact our office for assistance at 608-739-4617.
Landlords should ask tenants to apply for utility service before moving in, (we like to see a copy of their signed lease agreement) or the landlords can notify Muscoda Utilities by email or phone call prior to the tenant’s move-in date. If the tenant fails to sign up for service it will result in the landlord receiving the bill.
We encourage landlords to collect social security and driver’s license information from each tenant. We suggest also charging a deposit for utility service in cases where tenants will be responsible for paying their utility bill, as our ability to charge a security deposit is limited by state law, and there are instances when we may look to the landlord for payment of the tenant’s utility bill.
During the period that a tenant is a customer of Muscoda Utilities, we will bill the tenant directly. As defined in 2013 Wisconsin Act 274 and Wisconsin Statute 66.0809, landlords will be notified when a tenant’s utility account is past due. The utility needs to be informed that a property is a rental unit.
The tenant will receive a past due disconnection notice as well as a 2nd disconnection reminder on the bottom of their next utility bill. The disconnection notice will provide 10 days for the tenant to either pay the past due balance, or make payment arrangements. If the tenant has not complied with requirements of the notice, we attempt to contact them to advise them their service will be disconnected. We follow up with disconnection of their service, which is typically effective in prompting a customer to pay their past due balance. In some instances when the customer cannot afford to pay the full past due balance in order to have their service reconnected, we will agree to a down payment and a payment plan for the remainder. Customers are also required to pay a reconnection charge.
When a tenant vacates a rental property, there will be a final reading and a final bill sent to the tenant’s address on file. If the tenant has moved within our service area, and leaves a past due balance at another property, that balance gets paid off first. If a tenant has moved outside our service area, and does not pay their bill, we can place outstanding utilities as a lien against the property taxes (see section titled “Utility bills and the tax roll”).
Please provide us with any information on your tenants such as a forwarding address.
During the periods of time when the rental property is vacant (between tenants), the account is placed in the landlord’s name and billed to the landlord.
DISCONNECTIONS LIMITED DURING WINTER MORATORIUM AND DURING SUMMER HEAT ADVISORIES
Due to health concerns that can occur from loss of heat during the cold weather months (November 1 – April 15) or loss of the ability to cool a residence during the days when there is a heat advisory in effect, the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin prohibits utilities from disconnecting specific services to occupied dwellings during these times.
UTILITY BILLS AND THE TAX ROLL
As a municipal utility, Muscoda Utilities is permitted by Wisconsin Statute 66.0809 to place unpaid utility bills on the tax roll as a lien. Although the statute is fairly broad, it is our general practice to file tax liens against a property where an unpaid balance remains on the utility account.
One of the primary reasons for the statute is the fact that rates charged by the public utilities are not designed to earn a profit, and bad debts are therefore not easily absorbed. Utilities cannot choose their customers nor can they typically require that customers pay a security deposit. Since we are not able to collect deposits from all customers, we encourage landlords to collect a security deposit sufficient to cover utility bills, to avoid having to take responsibility for non-payment. We also encourage landlords to verify that utility bills have been paid in full before refunding security deposits.
If we do not receive payment from the renter or landlord by October 10, we will send a letter to both parties with notification of a pending tax lien against the property to be filed on November 15.
- If paid by the landlord between October 10 and November 15, it affords the landlord the ability to file a notice of lien against the tenant’s personal assets.
- If paid by the tenant by November 15, no further action is required by the landlord or utility.
- Unpaid past due charges remaining on November 15 will become a lien on the property and be included on the property tax bill.
HOW CAN A PROPERTY OWNER/LANDLORD SEEK COST RECOVERY FOR PAST DUE AMOUNTS PAID BY THE PROPERTY OWNER ON THE TENANT’S BEHALF
Statutory provisions effective in 2015 (as part of 2013 Wisconsin Act 274), provide an option for property owners. Statute 66.0809 describes that a property owner can obtain and file a lien against a residential tenant’s personal assets for payment made from landlord funds for the tenant’s past due utility charges.
This provision is available when the property owner does not have a security deposit available for the unpaid utility bill, and only in cases of residential rental property. Additionally, the property owner’s payment for the tenant’s utility charges must be made to the utility (either directly or through payment of the property taxes) after October 15. Once the payment is made, the property owner has until April 15 to file a lien against the tenant’s personal assets. It is our understanding that this process is rather simple and requires only a small fee to the County Clerk of Court for the filing.
As of May 2015, there was a change made to our deferred payment agreement (DPA) policy.
A DPA will not be offered if:
- The residential tenant has a greater than $100.00 of account arrearages that are more than 90 days past due for utilities that bill monthly.
- The tenant has defaulted on a deferred payment agreement in the past 12 months. This criterion only applies to deferred payment agreements and not to other types of payment extensions or agreements.
- The residential tenant is responsible for account arrearages that were placed on any property owner’s tax bill in the utility’s service territory in the past 24 months.
- The residential tenant has a balance that accrued during the winter moratorium that is more than 80 days past due.
If you have a situation where there is one meter that services more than one unit, it is the owner’s responsibility to have that account in his/her name. (Wisconsin Act 40, Sec. 196.643 (2))
We appreciate the relationship we have with landlords and encourage open communication.
We appreciate a hands-on approach from landlords in working with their tenants to ensure payment of utility bills is taken seriously. Some landlords even stipulate in lease agreements that non-payment of utility bills is cause for eviction, which helps ensure timely payment of utility bills.
We hope you find this information helpful.