Hearing for foreclosure water turn-offs

March 11, 2008 1:06:29 PM PDT
An East Bay water district is trying to find a way to protect tenants from losing water service when their landlords don't pay the bill. But, the district doesn't want to lose money while trying to do the right thing. The East Bay Municipal District held a committee hearing today with a housing rights group over the issue.

This was a working meeting - where ideas were tossed about and everyone seems to be on the same page - that tenants are innocently getting caught in the middle of this foreclosure mess and that they shouldn't have their water turned off just because their building is in foreclosure.

The finance committee at East Bay MUD does have one problem it can't ignore - it needs money for its water bills. But some renters at the meeting asked to not have their water turned off just because their building owner hasn't paid the bill.

This is just an unfortunate side effect of the sub-prime mortgage crisis. A few tenants reported having their water turned off in December. Today, the finance committee instructed the staff to find other ways to collect the money without disturbing the tenants, and the tenants were very happy with today's outcome.

"Sounds like they are going to do something about it - change the rule, because it is not our fault. Why should the tenants have to suffer for something that the landlord is doing? They are using that as a tactic to force people out of their homes so they can make a profit," said Kimberly Ray, Oakland tenant.

Some of the suggestions included doing a better job of notifying the tenant and the owner of the problem. East Bay MUD will now start investigating whether the building is in foreclosure and then go straight to the owner with the problem. They are going to even look into the possibility of lawsuits if the owner can't pay the bill.

The staff will take all of these suggestions then take the ideas to the full board that will meet on March 25th. As of right now, there is an order in place to not shut down any tenants' water.