Division V. General Provisions

Chapter 13.90
BILLING AND COLLECTION OF UTILITY CHARGES

Sections:

13.90.010    Definitions.

13.90.015    Promulgation of rules.

13.90.020    Deferred payment agreements.

13.90.023    Service application.

13.90.028    Outstanding bill payment.

13.90.030    Billing – Delivery.

13.90.040    Utility billing – Delinquency date.

13.90.050    Delinquent charges constitute liens.

13.90.060    Notice of account delinquency and service termination.

13.90.070    Notice of account delinquency – Contents.

13.90.120    Discontinuance of utility services.

13.90.130    Termination, disconnection and reconnection – Payment required.

13.90.140    Temporary discontinuance of water, sewer, and garbage service.

13.90.150    Unauthorized reconnection – Meter removal – Charges.

13.90.160    Charges when meter out of order.

13.90.170    Allocation of partial payments.

13.90.180    Budget payment plan.

13.90.190    Service charge.

13.90.200    Authority of city to require cash payment.

13.90.210    Partial billing period.

13.90.220    Liability for charges.

13.90.230    Water meter calibration testing.

13.90.235    Adjustment of utility bills.

13.90.240    Deposit to utility funds.

13.90.010 Definitions.

For the purposes of this chapter, the following terms, phrases, words and their derivations shall have the meaning given in this section:

“Combined utility billing” means a bill for water, sewer, irrigation, stormwater, garbage and/or other utility services provided by the city at rates established by city ordinance. Capital improvement charges, meter charges, connection charges, reconnection charges, temporary disconnection charges and other similar charges provided for by city ordinance may be included in the combined utility billing.

“Customer” means the owner of the property to which utility services are provided, or the consumer of utility services or other person designated on the billing address shown in the files of the city’s utility billing system.

“Utility hearing examiner” means a person authorized by the mayor to hear and decide billing disputes between the city and its utility customers. [Ord. 22-15 § 7, 2015; Ord. 3-14 § 2 (Att. B), 2014; Ord. 37-06 § 1, 2006].

13.90.015 Promulgation of rules.

The mayor or city administrator, or authorized designee, is hereby authorized and directed to promulgate administrative policies and procedures for the implementation of this chapter. [Ord. 22-15 § 7, 2015; Ord. 3-14 § 2 (Att. B), 2014; Ord. 37-06 § 1, 2006].

13.90.020 Deferred payment agreements.

A. If a residential customer is unable to pay the full amount of utility charges because of temporary financial difficulties or other hardship, finance director or designee may permit the customer to sign an application for deferred payment; provided, however, that the city will be under no obligation to enter into any deferred payment agreement with any customer who has not fully and satisfactorily complied with terms of any previous agreement or with any customer with a currently delinquent account. Each residential customer will only be granted two deferred payments during a calendar year. An amount equal to 10 percent of the deferred balance will be added to the account balance in lieu of interest up to a maximum as set by city council in the master fee schedule. The deferred balance must be paid in full by the fifteenth day in the following month in which the original bill was due. A deferred payment promissory note will not be issued to a tenant without signed approval by the property owner.

B. If a customer is unable to pay the full amount of utility charges due to an underbilling, and the underbilling is found to be a city error, the finance director or designee may approve a short-term payment plan which includes interest charges. The interest will be based on the Washington State Local Government Investment Pool’s rate at the time the payment plan is established. An administrative fee as set by city council in the master fee schedule will be collected at the time the payment arrangement is made with the customer.

Underbilling because of customer error or where it appears a customer knew or should have known of the error shall be paid in full.

C. Failure to abide by the terms of the agreement shall be cause for termination of utility services until the total utility charges that are due are paid in full. [Ord. 22-15 § 7, 2015; Ord. 3-14 § 2 (Att. B), 2014; Ord. 12-13 § 1, 2013; Ord. 7-13 § 1, 2013; Ord. 37-06 § 1, 2006].

13.90.023 Service application.

A. Application Required. All transactions concerning city services shall be made through the office of the finance director. Before service will be connected or commenced, proper application must be made.

B. Application Contents. The office of the finance director will require each prospective customer to sign an application for city services. Application must be made in writing on a standard form available at the office of finance director. The application shall set forth the location of the premises, address to which bills shall be mailed and such information as the finance department may require, such as driver’s license and Social Security number, to determine which rate shall apply, or such other information as the finance department may reasonably require, and must be signed by the applicant. The application is merely a written request for service and does not in itself bind the city to serve.

C. New Account Service Fee. Service may be approved once a completed application form is received as provided in this section. The new account service fee as set by city council in the master fee schedule may be paid at the time of submission of the completed application form or billed and paid with the first utility bill issued for the account. [Ord. 22-15 § 7, 2015; Ord. 3-14 § 2 (Att. B), 2014; Ord. 37-06 § 1, 2006; Ord. 286 § 2, 1979; Ord. 197 § 3.05, 1975].

13.90.028 Outstanding bill payment.

An applicant who has been a customer of the city at the premises or at some premises other than those specified in the application who at the date of application still owes the city for unpaid bills shall be required to pay all outstanding bills before connection for service is made. Service will be denied to anyone who uses any subterfuge whatsoever to avoid payment for service. [Ord. 3-14 § 2 (Att. B), 2014; Ord. 37-06 § 1, 2006; Ord. 286 § 3, 1979; Ord. 197 § 3.06, 1975].

13.90.030 Billing – Delivery.

A. Combined utility billings shall be delivered to the customer by depositing the same in the United States mail, directed to the address shown on the application for utility service submitted by the customer to the city or on the change of address submitted by the customer to the city.

B. Deposit in the United States mail pursuant to subsection A of this section shall be deemed full and complete notice to the customer of the nature and amount of any particular billing. Failure to receive a bill or a mailed or posted notice shall not relieve the customer from obligation for payment. [Ord. 3-14 § 2 (Att. B), 2014; Ord. 37-06 § 1, 2006].

13.90.040 Utility billing – Delinquency date.

The combined utility billing shall be due and payable in full on the twenty-fifth day of each month following the month in which services were rendered, unless that date is a weekend day or legal holiday, in which case the due date shall be the next business day. The combined utility billing, or any portion thereof, which is not paid in full on or before the twenty-fifth day of the month shall be delinquent and shall result in the mailing of a notice of account delinquency and termination of services. A fee as set by city council in the master fee schedule shall be added to the account. If full payment is not received by the tenth day of the month following the due date, unless that date is a weekend day or legal holiday, in which case the effective date shall be the next business day, the city shall terminate water service to the premises. Effective February 1, 2015, all payments received in the payment drop box by 3:00 p.m. on the payment due date will be accepted without penalty. Payments received in the drop box after 3:00 p.m. will be posted the next business day and the account will be billed late fees and subject to service termination. [Ord. 38-14 § 1, 2014; Ord. 3-14 § 2 (Att. B), 2014; Ord. 37-06 § 1, 2006].

13.90.050 Delinquent charges constitute liens.

For failure to pay the amount past due by the tenth day of the month (or the next working day) following the due date for such services, a lien may be filed against the property. Notice of the city’s lien specifying the amount due (including administrative fees), the period covered, and giving the legal description of the premises sought to be charged shall be filed with the county auditor within the time required and may be foreclosed on in the manner and within the time prescribed for liens for labor and material as authorized in RCW 35.21.140. The lien, when filed, shall be prior to all other liens and encumbrances filed subsequent to the filing of such lien, but shall be subject to all general taxes and local improvement assessments, whether filed prior or subsequent thereto. [Ord. 3-14 § 2 (Att. B), 2014; Ord. 48-13 § 5, 2013; Ord. 37-06 § 1, 2006].

13.90.060 Notice of account delinquency and service termination.

A. Whenever a combined utility billing is delinquent, the office of the finance director shall give notice of account delinquency and service termination to the customer of the city’s intent to discontinue city utility services if payment in full is not made. Notice shall be given by depositing it in the United States mail, directed to the last known address of the customer as shown on the records of the city.

B. Deposit in the United States mail pursuant to subsection A of this section shall be deemed full and complete notice to the customer of the delinquent account. [Ord. 3-14 § 2 (Att. B), 2014; Ord. 37-06 § 1, 2006].

13.90.070 Notice of account delinquency – Contents.

The notice of account delinquency and service termination shall include the following information:

A. The name of the customer and the address to which the utility service is being provided.

B. The account number.

C. Total delinquent amount due and owing.

D. Notice that city services shall be terminated upon failure to pay the delinquent billing in full.

E. Notice that the customer has the right to dispute any charges according to the city’s grievance policy. If the issue remains unresolved after that, the customer has the right to request a hearing before a utility hearing examiner. [Ord. 3-14 § 2 (Att. B), 2014; Ord. 37-06 § 1, 2006].

13.90.120 Discontinuance of utility services.

A. City utility departments are authorized to discontinue and disconnect utility services to any customer pursuant to the procedures set out in this chapter.

B. A fee as set by city council in the master fee schedule shall be collected to cover the costs, charges and expense to provide discontinuance of utility services. [Ord. 22-15 § 7, 2015; Ord. 3-14 § 2 (Att. B), 2014; Ord. 13-13 § 1, 2013; Ord. 37-06 § 1, 2006].

13.90.130 Termination, disconnection and reconnection – Payment required.

A. There shall be a termination charge when payment has not been received by specified due date and termination of services has been scheduled with public works. There shall be a disconnection charge assessed for each voluntary discontinuance of service; provided, that the shutoff charges shall be more if the public works department is required to make a special trip for a single account. If service was discontinued at a time other than a regularly scheduled work day, additional charges will apply. Voluntary discontinuance of service must be scheduled at least two days in advance during a regularly scheduled work day (8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Monday through Friday excluding holidays). The termination, disconnection and reconnection charges are set forth by city council in the master fee schedule.

B. There shall be a reconnection charge assessed for each reconnection; provided, that the reconnection charge shall be more if the public works department is required to make a special trip for one account. When utility service has been involuntarily terminated, it will not be resumed until the total amount due for the utility services, including late fees, has been paid in full and all service charges for disconnection and reconnection have been paid. If service was reconnected at a time other than a regularly scheduled work day, the total amount due for the utility services including late fees and an after-hour reconnection charge must be paid by 10:00 a.m. on the first working day after the after-hour reconnection. Failure to pay the total amount due for utility services, late fees, and after-hour reconnection charge will result in immediate termination of service and additional reconnection fees assessed. The reconnection charges are set by city council in the master fee schedule. [Ord. 22-17 § 1 (Att. A), 2017; Ord. 3-14 § 2 (Att. B), 2014; Ord. 16-13 § 4, 2013; Ord. 37-06 § 1, 2006].

13.90.140 Temporary discontinuance of water, sewer, and garbage service.

When the owner of any premises connected to the city’s water supply system desires to temporarily discontinue the use of water, sewer, and garbage service, the owner shall make written application to have the water meter turned off. The application along with a disconnection service fee as set by city council in the master fee schedule shall be submitted to the city two working days prior to the requested turn-off date. The applicant shall notify the city in writing two working days prior to the requested turn-on date; a fee for reconnection will apply as set by city council in the master fee schedule. This service will only be available during normal business hours (8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Monday through Friday excluding holidays). The temporary discontinuance of service only applies to water, sewer, and garbage services and specifically excludes applicable irrigation and stormwater fees. [Ord. 3-14 § 2 (Att. B), 2014; Ord. 48-13 § 6, 2013; Ord. 16-13 § 5, 2013; Ord. 37-06 § 1, 2006].

13.90.150 Unauthorized reconnection – Meter removal – Charges.

In the event a city utility service which has been voluntarily or involuntarily terminated is reconnected without city approval and by other than city personnel, the city shall have the right to remove the meter and so much of the service installation as the city deems appropriate under the circumstances. Resumption of service upon removal of the meter and/or other service apparatus shall require advance payment of the city’s actual cost of meter and equipment removal and reinstallation. [Ord. 3-14 § 2 (Att. B), 2014; Ord. 37-06 § 1, 2006].

13.90.160 Charges when meter out of order.

In the event a water meter fails to register the amount of water used, the customer will be charged at the average rate of monthly consumption for the previous 12 months as shown by the meter when in order. [Ord. 3-14 § 2 (Att. B), 2014; Ord. 37-06 § 1, 2006].

13.90.170 Allocation of partial payments.

Whenever any partial payment of a utility billing is received, the amount paid shall be credited to outstanding charges in the following order of priority:

A. Penalties.

B. Irrigation.

C. Stormwater.

D. Garbage.

E. Sewer.

F. Water. [Ord. 3-14 § 2 (Att. B), 2014; Ord. 37-06 § 1, 2006].

13.90.180 Budget payment plan.

The city administrator, or authorized designee, is hereby authorized to create and implement a budget payment plan in accordance with state law. Such a plan shall permit the authorized customer to make monthly payments of utility charges on an annual averaged basis rather than on a monthly basis, with periodic adjustments to ensure that the amount paid on an annual basis reflects the actual charges incurred. [Ord. 3-14 § 2 (Att. B), 2014; Ord. 37-06 § 1, 2006].

13.90.190 Service charge.

A service charge as set by city council in the master fee schedule shall be imposed upon any customer who, in full or partial payment of a city combined utility bill, tenders a payment which is not honored by their financial institution for any reason. [Ord. 3-14 § 2 (Att. B), 2014; Ord. 37-06 § 1, 2006].

13.90.200 Authority of city to require cash payment.

The city reserves the right to require payment by cash, credit card or certified funds from any customer who has previously tendered a payment that was not honored by their financial institution. [Ord. 3-14 § 2 (Att. B), 2014; Ord. 37-06 § 1, 2006].

13.90.210 Partial billing period.

When a utility service customer requests service termination prior to the end of a regular billing cycle, the customer will be billed for a pro rata share of the minimum monthly service charge. In addition, the customer will be charged for water consumption based upon water used from the last meter reading to the date of termination in excess of the minimum gallons per month on a pro rata share. [Ord. 3-14 § 2 (Att. B), 2014; Ord. 37-06 § 1, 2006].

13.90.220 Liability for charges.

All owners of property shall remain ultimately and legally liable for the payment of any and all utility charges to the premises, regardless of whether such property is used for single-family, multifamily, or commercial purposes and regardless of the fact that the billings are made in the name of a tenant or other occupant of the premises. Such billings are for personal convenience only and shall not in any way affect lien rights of the city against the premises to which the services are furnished. [Ord. 3-14 § 2 (Att. B), 2014; Ord. 37-06 § 1, 2006].

13.90.230 Water meter calibration testing.

A. Any customer may request in writing that the city pull their water meter and check the meter’s calibration to determine if it is reading within the manufacturer’s acceptable tolerances.

B. If the water meter is out of calibration, per the manufacturer’s specifications, the current water bill will be adjusted and the water meter shall be replaced by the city.

C. If the water meter is reading within the manufacturer’s acceptable tolerance, the customer will be charged a fee as set by city council in the master fee schedule for the calibration test. [Ord. 3-14 § 2 (Att. B), 2014; Ord. 16-13 § 6, 2013; Ord. 37-06 § 1, 2006].

13.90.235 Adjustment of utility bills.

A. The finance director, or his/her designee, is empowered to resolve utility billing disputes upon receipt of a request to do so from a city utility customer. Utility bill adjustment requests are required to be submitted to the city’s finance director. Upon receipt of such notice from the customer, the finance director, or his/her designee, shall review the bill with the customer to see if the amount is justly owed. The customer shall have the right to a meeting to bring forth reasons and evidence why such bill or portion of said bill should not be due and owing.

B. The maintenance and repair of the water service pipe on the customer side of the water meter setter is the responsibility of the owner of the premises being served. The maintenance and repair of the sanitary sewer service pipe from the connection to the city’s sewer main to the premises is the responsibility of the owner of the premises being served. The owner shall keep said water and sewer service pipes in good working order.

C. In the case of a leak in the water service pipe, the owner may be entitled to an adjustment of only their current water utility bill provided each of the following conditions is met:

1. Within seven days of the leak discovery by the owner or within seven days of the city notifying the owner of a probable leak, whichever occurs sooner, the owner shall have completed the repair of said leak. The owner shall submit to the city an invoice or other evidence to show that the leak was repaired within the aforementioned time frame. An adjustment in the water utility billing shall not be permitted if such excess water consumption is due to a customer’s neglect or failure to timely repair the leak.

2. Said leak in the water service pipe was not caused by and/or the fault of the owner.

3. An adjustment for a water service leak shall only be allowed for the buried water service pipe from the water service setter to the premises. No adjustment shall be made for leaking plumbing fixtures, leaks or breaks associated with an irrigation system, or any other typically visible leaks.

4. Said property has not had a previous water bill adjustment due to a water service leak in the previous five years.

5. Customer’s utility account is current with no past due amounts owed to the city.

6. Utility service to property is classified as a single-family residence. Commercial, multifamily, and industrial classified utility service customers are not eligible for a water service leak adjustment to their utility bill.

7. Single-family residential customers will be eligible for a water service leak adjustment if the total dollar amount of the adjustment is greater than $25.00, but shall not exceed $250.00. Adjustments below $25.00 will not be processed by the city. Adjustments for water service leaks are limited to no more than $250.00.

D. If all the conditions of subsection C of this section are met, then the water consumption portion of the utility bill in the month the leak is detected shall be adjusted to an amount that is one-half of the difference between the previous year’s three-month average consumption and the existing disputed bill’s consumption. The three-month average shall be calculated by taking the average of the previous year’s consumption for the month the leak was detected, the month before, and the month after. For customers who have been owners for less than one year, the adjustment will be by one of the following methods:

1. The water consumption portion of the utility bill in the month the leak is detected shall be adjusted to an amount that is one-half of the difference between the previous three-month average consumption immediately preceding the disputed bill and the existing disputed bill’s consumption.

2. Or in the absence of three complete prior billing cycles, water consumption after the leak repair is complete can be used to estimate consumption during the leak period.

E. The city reserves the right to discontinue water service to any premises where the owner refuses to make necessary repairs to avoid the wasting of water. If after reasonable efforts to contact the owner about observable water being lost through leakage, the city at its option may terminate water service and shall leave a written notice as to its action and the reason therefor. [Ord. 3-14 § 2 (Att. B), 2014; Ord. 26-12 § 1, 2012].

13.90.240 Deposit to utility funds.

All late fees, interest and service charges for any city of West Richland water, sewer, irrigation, stormwater or garbage customer account shall be paid into the city of West Richland utility funds. [Ord. 11-19 § 1 (Exh. A), 2019; Ord. 3-14 § 2 (Att. B), 2014; Ord. 37-06 § 1, 2006].