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Water by-law
September 19, 2019
Draft water by-law

What you need to know about Oxford County's draft water by-law


Oxford County is putting its water and wastewater operations, billing and collection practices into a water by-law that will take effect tentatively on March 1, 2020.

While most of the water by-law puts into policy what we are already doing, there are some changes the community needs to know about:

  • New residential water/wastewater accounts can only be opened in the name of the property owner, not a tenant in the case of a rental unit. Accounts that already exist will continue as they are now until there is a new tenant.
     
  • New service fees and charges are being introduced for some services to help manage current and future costs of the water and wastewater system.
     
  • A flat rate stand-by charge for vacant residences will now apply--for instance, if a homeowner is away for an extended period of time--to cover the system cost of keeping water and wastewater infrastructure available.

We’re reaching out to the public starting September 11 until November 15, 2019, to make sure residents and landlords understand the proposed changes and have an opportunity to give their feedback and thoughts on how we will put them into place.

This page will continue to be updated through the consultation period. Please check back regularly.

Download the information sheet: Draft Water By-Law: What you need to know (Sept 2019)

Read the news release: Have your say on Oxford’s proposed new water by-law (Oct 10, 2019)

Read the Council report: CS 2019-30 - Water and Wastewater Billing and Collections Review
 

Water By-Law


Downloads

Draft - Water By-Law 

Draft - Fees and charges

Draft - Accounts receivable policy

Water and wastewater operations


 

How to give feedback
 

  1. Speak Up, Oxford: Send a coment or question through the Speak Up, Oxford! comment form
  2. Email: Send an email with your feedback to waterbilling@oxfordcounty.ca 
  3. Quick survey: Take our quick, 2-minute survey that lets you speak to key proposed changes
  4. Telephone: Call 1-800-755-0394 and ask for "Water billing"
  5. Mail your feedback to 21 Reeve St., P.O. Box 1614, Woodstock, ON N4S 7Y3


Questions & Answers
 

This section will be updated based on comments and questions to Speak Up, Oxford! 


The basics
 

1.   What’s changing?

The draft water by-law includes many of the processes and procedures we are already doing now through water operations, billing and collections. However there are a few proposed changes that are different:

  • New residential water/waster accounts can only be opened in the name of the property owner, not a tenant in the case of a rental unit. Accounts that already exist will continue as they are now until there is a new tenant.
  • New service fees and charges for some services to help manage current and future costs of the water and wastewater system.
  • Flat rate stand-by charge for vacant residences, for instance, if a homeowner is away for an extended period of time, to cover the cost to the system of keeping water and wastewater infrastructure available.
     

2.   When does the by-law come into effect?

Right now, the tentative date for the water by-law to come into effect is March 1, 2020. County Council received the draft water by-law as information on September 11, 2019, with final approval expected in December 2019, after the County has reached out to the public to explain the changes and get feedback on how to best put the by-law into place. After it is approved, the County will start to give residents and its billing partners formal notice.
 

3.   What is a water by-law?

A water by-law explains the roles and responsibilities of both property owners and Oxford County in ensuring the efficient operation of the municipal supply system. The by-law includes policies and practices for installing water meters, billing and collections, and enforcement when bills are not paid.

The County’s authority to provide water services is set out in Section 11 of The Municipal Act, whereas our water by-law gives more specific details about roles and responsibilities. It is not mandatory for municipalities to have a water by-law, but it is considered “best practice” and they are used by municipalities in Ontario to help protect the integrity and sustainability of the water supply system.

 


Landlords and tenants



1.  Why is the County making changes to residential tenant-held accounts?

After examining our billing practices for water and wastewater, we saw a number of changes that would reduce our overall costs of running the system. Remember, as a municipal government, cost efficiencies (or inefficiencies) ultimately get passed on to taxpayers.

We saw that we could reduce the number of unpaid bills we experience in a year. Up to 94% of these are transferred to a collections agency, which is costly and from which we receive very little payment back.

Also, this change helps protect resident tenants from paying water charges that are related to maintenance of the property, for instance, plumbing issues.

Ultimately, we want to offer a consistent practice where all residential rental units will have the water bill in the name of property owner(s). Right now, many residential tenants, particularly those in apartments or townhouse complexes, currently do not receive a water bill.
 


2.  How are landlords affected by these changes?

Landlords have the potential to save interest charges and administrative costs related to tenant arrears being transferred to the tax roll ($25.00 for each tax roll transfer plus any charges by the local municipality). Also, potential plumbing issues will be more easily identified by the owner receiving the bill.

 

3.  I am a landlord with tenants paying their own water and wastewater bills. Do they need to change over now?

No. Any existing accounts currently billed to tenants will stay that way until the tenant moves out. At that time, the water account will default to the owner of the residence or building.

 

4.   Can property owners or landlords ask to have the billing put in their name?

Yes. Property owners may request the bill to be put in their name at any point in time.

 

5.   Can tenants still pay the water bill?

Yes, tenants—or anyone—can make payments to a water/wastewater account. However, if the account is in the property owner or landlord’s name, that person is responsible for making sure bills are paid on time.

Our billing partners--Erie Thames Power, ERTH Solutions and the Town of Tillsonburg-- will continue to accept payments from tenants or other non-owners (such as a property manager) as long as the person paying has the water billing account number. Please note: this will be different from the residence’s electricity or hydro account number. 

 

6.   Doesn’t the County have to allow water bills in the name of tenants?

No: there is no provincial legislative regulation as to who may be the account holder for water and wastewater services.

 

7.   Is Oxford County the only municipality that doesn’t allow residential tenants to be the water account holder?

No: many municipalities require the water bill to be in the name of the property owner, regardless of customer type. Cambridge, Hamilton and Grimsby are examples.


 

Vacancy billing



1.   What is vacancy billing, and why do I have to pay for water if I’m not using it?

Vacancy billing describes a flat rate standby charge applied when a residence is vacant but still connected to the water and/or wastewater system. Although a customer may not be using water or wastewater during a vacancy, billing for this service includes the costs shared by everyone to maintain the system. Shutting off water doesn’t remove the residence from the water system, it used to avoid potential damage to contents or property in the event of leaking, a burst pipe, or broken water meter. In this way, this billing change better reflects the value and cost of the service being provided.

 

2.   What is the monthly cost for vacancy billing?

Oxford County is working on setting a rate for vacant accounts moving forward. In the meantime, we are using a temporary rate that blends flat rate service charges across the County, which range from $25.85 to $99.18. Water and wastewater rates are being reviewed in 2020, at which time we will communicate the set rate for vacancy billing.

Temporary rates are:
Stand-by charge        Monthly rate
Water                           $17.10
Wastewater                      8.75
Total                             $25.85


 

Service fees and charges
 


1.   Why is the County introducing new fees?

The Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002, and other regulations require municipalities to make plans to ensure long term financial sustainability of their drinking water systems. When we compared administrative charges used by Oxford County against fees and charges used by other municipalities, we saw a need to better match our service fees to the financial costs of maintaining the water system over the long-term, as well an opportunity to better ensure fairness and equity in how rates are maintained. The fee changes we are proposing address costs to our system by an individual customer rather than those costs that apply to the broader customer base, or all customers.

 

2.   Where can I get more information?

If you have questions that haven’t been answered here, please send a message to waterbilling@oxfordcounty.ca