Nederland decreases its uncollectible utility accounts

Published 12:11 am Tuesday, October 1, 2019

NEDERLAND — The city of Nederland has seen a decrease in the amount of uncollectible utility accounts over the past several years, attributed in part to the utility service deposit.

Council recently passed an ordinance declaring certain accounts as “uncollectible,” which have had no activity since Sept. 30, 2018. The write-off amount was $5,914.23.

Nederland City Manager Chris Duque said the utility debt issue ties back to residential rental property, specifically for single-family dwellings, or rent houses.

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Apartment complexes typically have a master meter and there hasn’t been a problem with bills associated with duplexes in the city.

“We adjusted deposits in order to mitigate this problem,” Duque said of the change made about five years ago.

The water utility deposit is usually $110 but when it is for residential rental property that is in the name of the tenant not the property owner, the deposit is $225.

But sometimes renters move from a home and leave the utility bill unpaid. And service is not shut off until the bill has not been paid for two months, which Duque said is standard in most cities.

But someone must pay the bill.

“We have had people upset with the deposit amount but when you’re trying to minimize potential loss on the back end, the cost is still there,” he said.

Duque said the city still treats the water and it costs electricity to run the plant.

“What happens is every customer in the city pays for it,” he said.

The price to the city is in the $100 to $200 price range usually.

Here’s a look at the uncollectible amounts:

  • September 2014 — $11,184.77
  • September 2015 — $6,136.63
  • September 2016 — $7,425.41
  • September 2017 — $8,469.85
  • September 2018 — $7,153.08
  • September 2019 — $5,914.34

Cheryl Dowden, finance director for the city, said the write-off amount isn’t actually written off but moved to a collection agency that will try to locate the individuals who left the bill.

“I think one of the reasons it (bad debt) isn’t as high as in the past is because we increased the deposit and it covers more of the amount due when people move out,” Dowden said, adding when the account is “final” the deposit is applied to the outstanding balance.