Council affidavit gives landlords protection

EVART — Landlords stuck with unpaid utility bills after tennants leave will now be protected by an updated tennant/landlord affidavit approved Monday by the Evart city council.

“Sometimes landlords and tennants have a disagreement and tennants leave without paying a bill,” said City Manager Zack Szakacs.

If landlords use the new policy, renters would be required to pay a $150 deposit to the city prior to move-in that would be used to cover any outstanding fees when the renter moves out. The landlord must give the city a copy of the lease at the start of the rental period. When the renter moves out they are required to provide the city with a forwarding address before they can receive their deposit.

Szakacs said the city had an affidavit on file, but it did not require tennants to pay a deposit.

“Now if the landlord doesn’t want to be liable, all they have to do is sign this affidavit and the tennant has to pay $150 deposit,” said city attorney Jim White.

Evart landlord John Lorenz rents out seven housing units in Evart and has had to pay the water bills of former tennants many times. The affidavit does not apply to current tenants, but Lorenz said he plans to use it for renters in the future.

“I’m going to use it for people who don’t have very good credit,” Lorenz said.

The city typically did not have dealings with the tennants so they had no way of helping landlords when a tennant left without paying utilities, White said. If a landlord chooses to use the new affidavit, the city would have direct contact with the tennants and hold them accountable to receive their $150 deposit at the end of their renting period.

“For the landlords that have been stuck before, this is a great plan,” said Mayor Eric Schmidt. “It protects the landlord and it makes an honest renter.”

Szakacs said many previous issues have been with unpaid water bills. City Treasurer Pam Wayne said the average monthly water bill in the City of Evart is $34.95, and the $150 deposit would cover roughly five months of unpaid water.

“It helps the landlord because if (the renter) wants that $150 back, they’re going to have to tell us their forwarding address, and they’re not just going to leave the landlord in the lurch,” Wayne said.

Though it is not required, Szakacs expects the landlord/tennant affidavit to decrease disputes about outstanding bills.

“It just protects landlords and the city from getting stabbed from someone’s outstanding bill.”

In other business, the council:

set a budget work session date for 6 p.m. on Monday at Evart City Hall to discuss options to balance the city budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year, which is currently negative by $289,722;

approved the 2012 Evart poverty exemption policy that would allow residents to petition the board to lower property taxes based on income level;

approved a permit for Fourth of July fireworks;

extended the medical marijuana moratorium by six months.