City holds landlords accountable for tenants' utility bills

Bret Anne Serbin

The question of how best to address delinquent utility bills divided the Missoula City Council Monday night.

Council voted 8-3 to make landlords responsible for past-due utility bills.

Proponents of the approach taken Tuesday thought it would be a good way to encourage water customers to pay their bills, since the city stopped shutting off water during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Deputy Public Works Director Logan McInnis explained that shutting off water is a challenging process for the city because many curb boxes are inaccessible or nonfunctioning.

“Certainly there are challenges with the process of shutting off water,” said McInnis. “We’ve got hundreds if not thousands of curb boxes in town that don’t work.”

Opponents of council’s decision, however, weren’t comfortable making landlords foot the bill for their tenants.

“After looking at this, I feel like there needs to be some other options rather than putting this back on the homeowner,” said Ward 5 Council Member John Contos.

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“If you use water you should pay for it,” he continued. “If you can’t pay for it, it probably needs to be turned off.”

Contos added he doesn’t think the

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