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Stockton to switch to 'owner-only' utility bill system in August

Cal Water services prompt new billing system, putting the responsibility on property owners.

STOCKTON, Calif. — The city of Stockton is changing its utility billing system on Aug. 15, moving to an "owner-only" system.

Property owners will now be responsible for charges related to utilities, which changes things for renters and tenants, as well. 

The new "owner-only" system means that new utility accounts in the city using city services can only be opened in the name of the property owner—this includes homeowners and owners of apartment properties. 

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Property owners can choose to pay the utility bills directly, or have the bill mailed to and paid by the tenant or property manager. Even if a tenant has negated to pay her utility bill, the property owner would ultimately be responsible for payment. 

Owner-only utility billing system have been successfully adopted in other California cities, including Modesto, Lathrop and Sacramento. 

Stockton property owners and tenants should be prepared for the switch nonetheless. 

In the area of Stockton serviced by California Water Company [Cal Water], the new system applies only to those services provided by the city, like trash and stormwater. But for those who also receive water from the city of Stockton, all utilities will be under the owner-only system. 

The Stockton City Council opted for the new ordinance after a Jan. 2018 council meeting addressing unpaid bills. Delinquent payments were prompted by billing issues with Stockton's dual water service providers--the city of Stockton and Cal Water.

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Customers of Cal Water receive two utility bills: a water bill from Cal Water and a separate bill from the City of Stockton for stormwater, sewer, and garbage and recycling. 

The problem, according to the city of Stockton's website, is that "when the City of Stockton bill is unpaid, water service cannot be shut off because the City is not the water service provider."

The ordinance places the responsibility for unpaid utilities on the owner. 

Tenants will no longer be able to open new accounts, either, rather this responsibility is also transferred on to the owner. 

Previously unpaid charges under the tenants name will not rollover to the owner's account. Renters and tenants must still pay outstanding bills, even if the account has closed. 

Though the city has already begun moving to the new system since the 2018 City Council meeting, the process is slow

Stockton hasn't yet switched every Cal Water account, expecting to have all tenant-billed accounts converted to owner-only accounts by Dec. 31. 

For those who receive water from the city of Stockton, the time frame could be faster. Though the new system will begin just next month, all accounts, including tenant-billed accounts, may be switched by the new year. 

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