Landlord’s failure to pay water bills leaves 260 without water.

Libertytown resident Thomas Lofft had the water temporarily shut off at his rental house recently when his landlord did not pay the water bill on time. (Frederick News-Post/Adam Fried)

Frederick County turned off the faucet for 260 customers in the first two months of this year.

One of the those water shut-offs was in Libertytown, where Thomas Lofft rents from Kevin Starke.

Lofft went to take a shower on Monday, he said, only to find that no water was coming out of the faucet.

Lofft, who has rented the property for 2 1/2 years, discovered that the county had turned off water to the house due to an unpaid bill.

“I think the county should notify residents in the property, not just the owner,” Lofft said.

“I was able to pay for it,” he said, “but I had to lose a half day of work, come to Frederick, and go to the bank since the county only accepted cash.”

Lofft is single, but said he worried about renters with children or those who might need water for health reasons.

“I have found a lot of hostile policies in Frederick County,” he said.

The county turned the water off for almost 1,200 accounts in 2011, a decrease from the previous two years.

Brenda Teach, team leader in the Office of Finance and Administration for the county’s Division of Utilities and Solid Waste Management, said there were 1,197 shut-offs for unpaid bills in 2011.

The policy is to send the bills to the landlord, according to Kevin Demosky, director of the division, but there is a system available that would send duplicates of all bills, and second and third notices if necessary, to both the landlord and tenants.

Demosky said it costs $20 to set up the program and $5 a month to send the duplicate copies. The $5 is added to the bill.

“It has to be agreed by the landlord and tenant,” Demosky said. “Not everyone wants that arrangement.”

Starke said he was unaware of the duplicate bill program. He did not say whether he would set it up for the future.

Starke said he thinks the county should notify tenants when a water shut-off is imminent.

“I can’t say whether I got the first bill or not,” he said, “but I do have the second notice. It has been in my ‘in’ bin and I hadn’t opened it in two weeks.”

Starke, who lives in Chevy Chase, said he owns another rental property in Virginia, as well as one in Chevy Chase.

The county sends the initial overdue notice after 30 days past the date for the payment, Teach said. A second notice is sent in 45 days. If there is no response, the water is shut off after 60 days.

Teach said there were 1,392 shut-offs throughout the county in 2010 and 1,604 in 2009.

“It is something we are not proud of,” Teach said. “We do make every effort to work with those who owe the money if the owner contacts us.”


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