Winamac Council Repeals Ordinance Holding Landlords Responsible for Water, Electric Bills

The Winamac Town Council has repealed an ordinance holding landlords responsible for utility bills, following a change in state law. In November, the council passed an ordinance allowing water and electric bills at rental properties to be put in the name of the landlord, due to concerns about renters leaving town with unpaid bills. But shortly after that, the state legislature passed House Enrolled Act 1347, which prohibits towns from doing that.

Town Attorney Justin Schramm told council members Monday that the legislation does give towns the ability to charge an additional deposit to renters who either have a bad credit history or lack two years of established credit history with the town. An ordinance allowing the town to charge that higher deposit was presented.

But Council Member Judy Heater felt that renters who are new to Winamac shouldn’t be penalized, if they can prove they have a good credit history elsewhere. “I know if I moved somewhere and I was going to get charged more just because I didn’t own the house but I’ve always paid my bills on time, it would not sit very well with me to move into a town like that,” she said.

Schramm agreed to adjust the ordinance, noting that the idea is not to penalize people for being renters, but to secure the town against renters who aren’t paying. Council members decided to hold off on any action on the deposit ordinance, until the changes are made. However, an ordinance officially repealing last November’s ordinance passed unanimously.

A similar measure will be up for the North Judson Town Council’s approval next Monday.