Miami-Dade Legislative Item
File Number: 102345
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File Number: 102345 File Type: Ordinance Status: In Committee
Version: 0 Reference: Control: Board of County Commissioners
File Name: AMEND SEC 32-92 REGARDING WATER & SEWER Introduced: 9/24/2010
Requester: NONE Cost: Final Action: 12/9/2010
Agenda Date: 12/7/2010 Agenda Item Number: 7G
Notes: Title: ORDINANCE RELATING TO THE MIAMI-DADE WATER AND SEWER DEPARTMENT; AMENDING SECTION 32-92 OF THE CODE OF MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA; ESTABLISHING COUNTY POLICY PROVIDING FOR TENANTS TO RECEIVE WATER AND SEWER SERVICE THROUGH A BRIDGE ACCOUNT NOT TO EXCEED SIX MONTHS WHERE MULTI-UNIT PROPERTY IS SERVED BY ONE METER AND PROPERTY OWNER’S ACCOUNT IS TERMINATED FOR NONPAYMENT; PROVIDING SEVERABILITY, INCLUSION IN THE CODE AND AN EFFECTIVE DATE
Indexes: AMENDING CODE
  WATER AND SEWER
Sponsors: Katy Sorenson, Prime Sponsor
  Audrey M. Edmonson, Co-Sponsor
  Rebeca Sosa, Co-Sponsor
  Joe A. Martinez, Co-Sponsor
  Jean Monestime, Co-Sponsor
Sunset Provision: No Effective Date: Expiration Date:
Registered Lobbyist: None Listed


Legislative History

Acting Body Date Agenda Item Action Sent To Due Date Returned Pass/Fail

Board of County Commissioners 12/9/2010 7G Amended
REPORT: Commissioner Seijas questioned whether one of the co-sponsors should become the prime sponsor of this proposed ordinance in the absence of Commissioner Sorenson. First Assistant County Attorney Abigail Price-Williams responded that the Board could continue as is; however, the Board’s Rules and Procedures provided that another commissioner could assume sponsorship as part of the motion. Commissioner Bell indicated her desire to become the Prime sponsor to this proposed ordinance. Chairman Moss recessed the Board meeting indicating that this discussion would continue later and convened the Committee of the Whole meeting. Following the Committee of the Whole meeting, the Board reconvened and continued its discussion on this proposed ordinance. First Assistant County Attorney Price-Williams read the foregoing proposed ordinance into the record. It was moved by Commissioner Edmonson that the foregoing ordinance be adopted. This motion was seconded by Commissioner Bell. Commissioner Seijas suggested Commissioner Edmonson consider the following amendment to this proposed ordinance: that this ordinance would become effective upon adoption of the Implementing Order (IO). Commissioner Edmonson responded that the Department was preparing an IO; that she would prefer to leave the ordinance as written; however, she would like to hear from her colleagues. Commissioner Seijas said that she wanted the proposed amendment to be considered before adopting this proposed ordinance since the IO would become effective upon adoption of the ordinance. Commissioner Diaz asked Mr. John Renfrow, Director, Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department (WASD), whether the water would remain turned off after six months. He said that he wanted people to fully understand the outcomes under various circumstances. Mr. Renfrow responded that an IO was being prepared by the Department; it would address the specific procedures and concerns expressed by the Board; and it would be presented to the Board once completed. Commissioner Diaz reiterated that this ordinance would not be enforced without the Board’s review of the IO. Responding to Commissioner Diaz, Ms. Price-Williams noted that no specific timeframe was given for bringing the IO back to the Board. She also confirmed that today’s (12/09) approval of this ordinance was only a concept about moving forward on an idea; the IO would establish guidelines and procedures to incorporate what was being approved; and that the IO would not become effective until it was approved by the Board. Commissioner Gimenez questioned whether the ordinance would become effective, if approved without the amendment, prior to the IO being written by the Department and the effect of Commissioner Seijas’ amendment on the ordinance. Ms. Price-Williams responded to Commissioner Gimenez that the ordinance would become effective ten days after the enactment date; however, implementation of the ordinance required IO approval. She noted that Commissioner Seijas’ proposed amendment would delay implementation of this ordinance until IO approval. Commissioner Seijas said that her amendment was to provide transparency so that the public would have complete information at one time on this ordinance. Ms. Price-Williams noted that Subsection C of the ordinance required the Department to establish specific procedures which would not go into effect until Board approval. Commissioner Gimenez proposed and Commissioner Edmonson accepted an additional amendment directing the Department to provide the IO within 60 days. Commissioner Sosa noted her support for Commissioner Edmonson’s proposal, indicating that the ordinance included specific language in the County Code that would allow temporary water connections. She said that the County should not take away services from paying customers because other residents did not pay their bill. Commissioner Sosa noted a strong message needed to be sent to the Department requiring that specific procedures be developed and that the IO be finalized expeditiously. Commissioner Bell supported the approval of this proposal as amended, noting language on page 2; “whereas the policy shall be implemented through Miami-Dade County’s Water and Sewer Department Rules and Regulations.” Commissioner Jordan asked staff to clarify the requirement to pay in advance an annual fee of three dollars ($3.00) per monthly account and two dollars ($2.00) per quarterly account for the administration of bridge accounts for the duration of the six-month coverage period. Mr. Renfrow explained that the annual fee requirements as indicated by Commissioner Jordan were the existing rules for any new tenant, new connection or new account. He said he was not prepared today (12/09) to provide details, but would return in 60 days with specific procedures and would brief commissioners individually in the interim. Commissioner Jordan noted she was concerned about unintended consequences to the Department. She said that numerous multi-family buildings existed in both Districts 1 and 13 and questioned the impact of these buildings on the Department’s ability to develop a legitimate payment plan after the public was informed of the six-month grace period. Commissioner Jordan noted she would be unable to support this proposal without complete details of the IO. Commissioner Diaz concurred with Commissioner Jordan’s sentiments. He expressed his concern that the Department needed sufficient time to determine the impact of this ordinance on its budget. He said it was inhumane to keep water from residents; however, he did not want the wrong procedural message portrayed to the community. Commissioner Barreiro noted that future multi-family buildings should be designed with the ability for units to be individually metered, if necessary. He also inquired whether a substantial remodeling of greater than 50% to a multi-family building could include a requirement to retrofit the building with water meters. Mr. Renfrow commented that any new multi-unit building construction already required individual meters. He said that the retrofit requirement was not included in the ordinance since it would be physically impossible to make these changes based upon the existing structure of many buildings. Chairman Moss asked Mr. Renfrow to determine how issues relating to multi-unit buildings served by one meter were addressed in other counties/cities. He also asked Mr. Renfrow to determine whether a provision could be included in the leases to require that non-payment of water bills would be grounds for individuals to be removed from the property. Commissioner Martinez said that there was a disincentive for the building owner to pay water bills in the event that this ordinance was approved and that this would negatively impact the Department. He questioned the amount of deposits required from multi-family buildings. Mr. Joseph Ruiz, Deputy Director, Operations, Water and Sewer Department (WASD), responded that deposits were based upon an estimate of one-month’s usage. Commissioner Martinez suggested that the Department keep the deposit after the property owner defaulted on his/her payment for a one-month period. He said that the Department would then inform tenants that the water would be shut off in three months. Mr. Ruiz said that residents were not cut off for approximately 90 days and that an expedite procedure was already established to notify tenants. Commissioner Gimenez noted that this was a six-month program which would provide ample time for tenants to start looking for another place to live in the event that the property owner did not pay the bill. He said that the owner would ultimately pay the bill since the property could not be rented without water. Commissioner Gimenez suggested that the IO include a 90 percent cutoff. Commissioner Jordan questioned and Ms. Price-Williams concurred that this proposed ordinance would become law upon its adoption. Ms. Price-Williams responded to Commissioner Jordan’s question that the Board would consider revisiting the ordinance in the event the IO was not approved. Commissioner Jordan asked Mr. Renfrow to provide a report detailing the number of existing multi-unit buildings within the County with one water meter. Commissioner Jordan asked Commissioner Edmonson to consider deferring this item pending more information on the ramifications and potential harm to the Department. Commissioner Edmonson asked Mr. Renfrow to provide the Board with information prior to the IO. She noted that today’s (12/09) action was only the first step and that additional research was required before the Board considered the IO. Commissioner Edmonson said that the Board had the authority to rescind the ordinance in the event that the IO was not approved. She accepted the amendment proposed by Commissioner Gimenez. Commissioner Seijas questioned whether the amendment which she proposed would be accepted. Commissioner Gimenez noted that Commissioner Seijas’ amendment was for purposes of clarification; it was already included in the ordinance; and it would not go into effect until the IO was approved. Commissioner Seijas asked that language be included in the title specifying that the ordinance would become effective upon its adoption. Commissioner Edmonson noted she accepted the amendments presented by both Commissioners Gimenez and Seijas. Commissioner Barreiro said that many buildings accepted Section 8 vouchers and suggested that customers not paying their water bills should not receive these incentives. Chairman Moss asked County Attorney Cuevas to determine whether the County could authorize the WASD to accept payments directly from tenants under certain circumstances where the property manager or the property owner failed to make payments to the County within a specified timeframe. There being no further questions or comments, it was moved by Commissioner Edmonson that the foregoing proposed ordinance be adopted as amended to become effective upon adoption of the Implementing Order; and to direct the Water and Sewer Department to submit the IO to the Board within 60 days. This motion was seconded by Commissioner Bell, and upon being put to a vote, passed by a vote of 11-0, (Commissioners Bell and Heyman were absent). The foregoing ordinance has been assigned No. 10-88.

Board of County Commissioners 12/7/2010 7G Carried over 12/9/2010

Government Operations Committee 11/9/2010 1E2 Forwarded to BCC with a favorable recommendation P
REPORT: Assistant County Attorney Geri Bonzon-Keenan read the foregoing proposed ordinance into the record. Chairman Gimenez opened the public hearing and the following individual(s) appeared in connection with the foregoing proposed ordinance: Mr. Charles Elsesser, Florida Legal Services, 3000 Biscayne Boulevard, expressed appreciation to the sponsors of this ordinance for bringing it forward. He noted, during an outreach to tenants of multi-family buildings in foreclosure, it was found that property conditions and water termination were major problems. He also noted that often an owner/manager abandoned a building in foreclosure, leaving the water bill unpaid and creating a difficult situation for tenants to collectively pay the bill. He noted this ordinance was intended as a first step to enable tenants to take the necessary action to get the water turned on until the bank or a new owner was in place to assume that responsibility. Mr. Elsesser noted that if this ordinance passed, he believed the tenants should be notified of this process for restoring water at the time their water was terminated. Commissioner Seijas noted a new law requiring any tenant renting from a Home Owners Association (HOA) to sign an agreement authorizing the HOA to collect rent, which would be placed in a property maintenance account in the event said tenant failed to pay the maintenance fees. She noted this law should be useful in ensuring that properties were maintained. Mr. Elsesser clarified that this ordinance largely addressed tenants who lived in multi-family buildings that were not part of an HOA; and was the initial step in resolving the problem. He also noted the implementing procedures were not included in this ordinance; that they would be hashed out later between the tenants and representatives of the Water and Sewer Department. Commissioner Seijas expressed concern that an ordinance, once adopted, became a County rule and it was not feasible to establish rules without the procedures. She noted although she support this proposed ordinance, she believed it needed further review and explanation. Seeing no other persons wishing to speak, Chairman Gimenez closed the public hearing. Commissioner Sorenson, sponsor of this ordinance, noted her office (District 8) had received many calls from constituents whose water service was terminated even though they paid their rent faithfully. She also noted the implementing procedures would be detailed in the implementing Administrative Order (A.O.), which would be submitted as a follow-up to this ordinance. She clarified, for the record, that the existing County Code did not contain any provisions for tenants to pay water bills in the absence of a building owner/manager; and this ordinance as proposed, would provide an alternative by allowing tenants to pay their bill through a bridge account. Commissioner Diaz noted a similar problem occurred in District 12, and he was advised by WASD’s Director that it was impossible to solve it unless one meter was installed per tenant, which was impossible to install in old buildings, or the WASD provided water without holding tenants accountable for payment. He said he did not understand how this issue could be resolved. Commissioner Diaz provided a scenario in which a building had one meter, and only two of the tenants paid their share of the water bill. He questioned how WASD would handle this scenario. Mr. Renfrow indicated that water would have to be shut off to the whole building if the building had only one meter and one maintenance account and the bill was not paid in full. He noted this ordinance provides for the WASD to establish the procedures, and he believed it was the right initial step to address the problem. Commissioner Sosa noted she believed the problem could be resolved. She asked to be listed as a co-sponsor to this ordinance, noting it mandated WASD to establish the procedures and not to shut off water for up to six months if tenants were paying for it through a bridge account. Commissioner Martinez noted he was supportive of this ordinance because it was a step towards resolving the issue, which had been ongoing for awhile. Commissioner Edmonson said she also received many calls from constituents whose water had been shut off, and many of them were forced out of their homes and found it difficult to relocate. She noted members of the County Commission have often deferred items, and directed staff to come back with alternatives; and she did not believe that WASD would come back without a solution. Commissioner Seijas said she believed the problem could be solved if an ordinance was developed requiring renters to sign a contract stating they agreed their water could be shut off if they did not pay their share of the water bill. She said she could not support the foregoing ordinance because it did not contain implementing procedures. In response to Commissioner Diaz’ inquiries regarding whether every tenant in a building would have to agree to put money into the bridge account, and what would happen if the tenants did not gather enough money to pay the total bill, Assistant County Attorney Sarah Davis noted the proposal was to get the residents of a foreclosed building to designate a representative to communicate with the WASD and collect money to pay the water bill monthly; however, that would not guarantee that every tenant would pay their share. She noted if some tenants refused to pay, other tenants might decide to contribute extra money in order to keep the water turned on for the entire building; however, if the full amount was not paid, a bridge account could no longer exist. Commissioner Diaz noted he previously thought this ordinance would direct the Department (WASD) Director to find a way to charge each tenant their equal share of the water bill; however, following further clarification, he understood that the intent was to provide the WASD and the tenants an opportunity to negotiate a way for the tenants to pay their water bill; and based on clarification that either every tenant or a fraction of the tenants would come up with the full amount of the bill, he would support this ordinance. Chairman Gimenez noted this ordinance might open doors that were closed in the past; for example, tenants could sign off on agreements to pay water bills individually or as a group. Commissioner Diaz noted this ordinance would only provide an opportunity for the Department Director and the tenants to negotiate their water bills. He emphasized that Mr. Renfrow would not be returning to the Commission with an implementing order to install individual meters for every tenant’s unit. Mr. Renfrow clarified that subject water bills were not being paid and this ordinance provided a way for the tenants to pay their bill through a separate bridge account and continue to receive water. He added that after paying their bill to WASD, the tenants could settle the matters with the building’s owner/management company. In response to Commissioner Diaz’ comments that this ordinance was a mandate and should be a resolution, Chairman Gimenez noted he believed this ordinance as drafted would accomplish the intent and facilitate negotiations between WASD and the tenants. Hearing no further comments or questions, the Committee proceeded to vote on this ordinance as presented.

Board of County Commissioners 10/5/2010 Tentatively scheduled for a public hearing Government Operations Committee 11/9/2010

Board of County Commissioners 10/5/2010 4E Adopted on first reading 11/9/2010 P
REPORT: First Assistant County Manager Abigail Price-Williams read into the record the foregoing proposed ordinance. Hearing no questions or comments, the Board proceeded to vote on the foregoing ordinance by roll call vote as presented. The foregoing ordinance was adopted on first reading and set for a public hearing before the Government Operations Committee (GOC) meeting of Tuesday, November 9, 2010, at 9:30 AM.

County Attorney 9/24/2010 Referred Government Operations Committee 11/9/2010

County Attorney 9/24/2010 Assigned Sarah E. Davis 9/28/2010

Legislative Text


TITLE
ORDINANCE RELATING TO THE MIAMI-DADE WATER AND SEWER DEPARTMENT; AMENDING SECTION 32-92 OF THE CODE OF MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA; ESTABLISHING COUNTY POLICY PROVIDING FOR TENANTS TO RECEIVE WATER AND SEWER SERVICE THROUGH A BRIDGE ACCOUNT NOT TO EXCEED SIX MONTHS WHERE MULTI-UNIT PROPERTY IS SERVED BY ONE METER AND PROPERTY OWNER’S ACCOUNT IS TERMINATED FOR NONPAYMENT; PROVIDING SEVERABILITY, INCLUSION IN THE CODE AND AN EFFECTIVE DATE

BODY
WHEREAS, Miami-Dade County’s Water and Sewer Department requires that when multiple units are served through the same meter, the water service account must be in the name of the property owner, who must accept full responsibility for all service rendered ; and
WHEREAS, throughout Miami-Dade County, many property owners of multi-unit dwellings collect rent from their tenants, which includes a charge for water and sewer service; and
WHEREAS, from time to time, some property owners of multi-unit dwellings fail to pay their Miami-Dade County Water and Sewer Department bills and their accounts become delinquent; and
WHEREAS, after providing notice of the delinquency of the property owner’s account, Miami-Dade County’s Water and Sewer Department has the right to terminate water service to the building; and
WHEREAS, the tenants of such multi-unit dwelling, who have been paying for water and sewer service through their rent will be damaged and may be forced to leave their rental units; and
WHEREAS, in order to ensure that the tenants in multi-unit dwellings are not damaged as a result of the property owner’s failure to pay the water and sewer bills despite receiving payment for such services from the tenants of the multi-unit dwelling, this Board desires to establish as its policy that such tenants continue to receive water and sewer service for a period not to exceed six (6) months through creation of a bridge account; and
WHEREAS, this policy shall be implemented through the Miami-Dade County’s Water and Sewer Department’s Rules and Regulations.,
BE IT ORDAINED BY THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA:
Section 1. The foregoing recital is incorporated in this resolution and is approved.
Section 2. Section 32-92 of the Code of Miami-Dade County, Florida is hereby amended as follows:1
Sec. 32-92. Delinquent account notification service for rental property
(a) The Department shall establish procedures to notify property owners and/or managers of delinquent accounts.

(b) Subscribers to this service shall pay in advance an annual fee of three dollars ($3.00) per monthly account and two dollars ($2.00) per quarterly account.

* * *

>>(c) Tenants who reside in multi-unit property served by one meter may establish a bridge account with the Department for water and sewer service for a period not to exceed six (6) months where the property owner’s account is terminated for nonpayment. The Department shall establish procedures for the administration of bridge accounts with tenants that meet specified conditions.<<

Section 3. If any section, subsection, sentence, clause or provision of this ordinance is held invalid, the remainder of this ordinance shall not be affected by such invalidity.
Section 4. It is the intention of the Board of County Commissioners, and it is hereby ordained that the provisions of this ordinance, including any Sunset provision, shall become and be made a part of the Code of Miami-Dade County, Florida. The Sections of this ordinance may be renumbered or relettered to accomplish such intention and the word “ordinance may be changed to “section”, “article” or other appropriate word.
Section 5. This ordinance shall become effective ten (10) days after the date of enactment unless vetoed by the Mayor, and if vetoed, shall become effective only upon an override by this Board.

1 Words stricken through and/or {{double bracketed}} shall be deleted. Words underscored and/or >>double arrowed<< constitute the amendment proposed. Remaining provisions are now in effect and remain unchanged.



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