Landlord in Depoe Bay appeals to city council

Neighbor Jason Westman points to a condominium in Depoe Bay, abandoned by a renter who is blamed for a 233,000-gallon water leak. (Photo by Rick Beasley)

DEPOE BAY — A feckless renter who abandoned her condominium during a pipe-freezing cold snap without paying utility bills is being blamed for a 233,000-gallon water leak that occurred in December 2019.

On Tuesday, members of the Depoe Bay City Council heard a plea from the landlord for a reduction in the $1,700 water bill, which would have been much higher if a meter reader hadn’t noticed a massive outflow equivalent to 35 times the normal use.

“All this happened after I paid her last water and sewer bill with my credit card and told her to pay her light bills first, so she would have the heat in the unit,” said condominium manager Solomon Yue Jr. of the long-gone occupant of 455 Williams Ave. No. 5.

Instead, the renter left the landlord and condo’s owners awash in unpaid rents, repair bills and overdue utility fees. Yue seemed stoic about the money he loaned the tenant, but asked the City of Depoe Bay to help by giving him “a break” on the water charges.

City Recorder Barbara Chestler denied Yue’s initial request on Jan. 23, writing, “The city does not provide assistance to customers with a reduction to bill for problems that arise from maintenance issues on the owner’s property.”

She offered to put Yue on a payment schedule and stated he could appeal the decision, which he did. At the Feb. 4 city council meeting, Yue said the water break happened after Central Lincoln PUD halted electric service to the two-bedroom apartment, which rented for about $1,100 per month. The pipes soon froze, resulting in a broken water line that flooded the condo and drained, unnoticed, into an adjacent wetland.

Yue described a situation that is familiar to landlords and renters in the coast’s “affordable housing” landscape.

“My renter lost her job and failed to pay her monthly rent,” recalled Yue, saying he loaned her the money to cover the water and sewer bill if she would pay for the power. “Her unemployment check couldn’t cover all her bills.”

Yue asked the city to drop the charge to $75.82, a figure based on a typical two-month sewer bill. Councilors considered the matter and voted 4-0 to lower the bill to $747 after reasoning the occupant should have had renter’s insurance.

Yue figured it could have been worse.

“I am very grateful to the city for turning off my water,” he commented.

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