Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Senior Discount & Mobile Home Parks

Been working on something this week I think is important. Over 15 years ago the City of Toledo decided to give seniors who qualify for the Homestead Exemption a break on their water bills. It's called the Water Discount Program.

Well, a woman from Cypress Point Village over there on Consaul Street somehow tracked down my cell phone number, called, and really shocked me when she said folks have been paying $65, $85 and even over $100 in monthly water bills. She said there is likely a break in the water lines (they see standing water here and there) and the residents are getting gouged for it. And that as far as she knew none of the seniors were getting the water discount.

I did some investigating and found that most mobile home parks have but one tap & meter that the City bills from, and the park management then sends an assessment to their residents by various means. Some figure it into the monthly lease, some have private meters.

Mayor Ford's Deputy Chief of Staff, the able Bill Franklin, and Water Dept. chief Bob Williams very quickly got me up to speed on city policy regarding water and sewer at mobile home parks. The pipes belong to the owners, not the city. Technically, the seniors in the parks weren't our customers as they received no Water Dept invoices directly - though they conceded that some system could be established with park managers to include those seniors. If we have to change the law then I'm willing to propose that.

So that's what I'm seeking to do with a letter to at least 21 mobile home communities within the City of Toledo, asking them to call me and work with the Water Dept and their residents to insure that seniors who qualify do get that 20% discount. We're all getting hammered by the dramatic increases in other utility costs, not to mention gasoline prices above $2.70 a gallon, but its especially troubling to think of seniors, on fixed incomes in mobile homes, being left out of a deal that could save them precious dollars.

Cypress Point has some additional issues - relayed to me late this afternoon by roughly 40 residents who came out to talk along Consaul: A Blockwatch Program apparently stymied by the new management. Excessive late fees for residents who get their Social Security check two days after the lease is due. And the discontinued use of the security gate fencing that has increased unease among residents. We called the President of Blockwatch in Toledo, Mike Dearth, who is going to contact the Toledo Police officers who handle East Side BW to help us re-organize the Cypress Point community. I also am going to contact tomorrow the Fair Housing Center about some of the resident-management issues brought up.

Before going over to the East Side I spoke to a park manager for a few other mobile home parks in Toledo, and he is quite reasonable and willing to lend a hand. In fact, he wants us to look into what he described as "price gouging" by an area vendor who provides various services to mobile home residents. Hopeful this can make a difference for some folks.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Look at you go, Frank, well done.

It is refreshing to see you take a situation by the bullocks and use your position in a positive light for the community instead of your party.

And a thank you for not chastizing this person for calling you, following upon her situation and resolving it. Here's your gold star and a pat on the back.


4:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are landlords even allowed to bill tenants for water? And since when does anyone get a MONTHLY water bill? Mine comes quarterly.

Go get em frank, but tread lightly - might be stepping in some kickback that McCloskey is getting!

9:17 AM  
Blogger historymike said...

Legally landlords in Ohio are not allowed to bill you seperately for utilities. They can say "utilities are included in the rent," but they can't legally split bills, unless PUCO has changed the regulations.

I was once involved in an action against a landlord that had one electric bills, and had an arrangement where they sent an engineer to "estimate" usage. PUCO awarded the tenants treble damages; one tenant was refunded 6 figures. The landlord had to change practices, and Edison came out and installed seperate meters.

Frank, is there a waiver for city-owned utilities, or is this landlord scamming the tenants? It wouls seem to me that the tenants have an actionable cse against the landlord.

12:10 PM  
Blogger Lisa Renee said...

Giant Oaks charges us for water, on top of the rent. We get a quarterly bill.

When I lived in Woodside Terrace (mobile home park in Springfield twp) intially water was included then they decided they could find a way to charge us, so we got a monthly water bill, they installed meters at each house and paid one of the utility meter readers an extra fee to read the meters each month.

I get charged an extra 153 dollars every three months on top of the 899 rent. Anyone wondering why I am looking for a less expensive place?


10:08 PM  
Blogger Frank said...

If they do have an actionable case, historymike, the lawyers at Fair housing center will tell us. Will also refer it to the city law department as well & get back here to let you know.

12:14 AM  

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