Explaining Waste Removal Service Charges to Property Owners

5 July 2020

Mr. P owned a mixed commercial-residential property which he rented out. The City’s Solid Waste Management division had charged him for removing garbage from in front of his property. He called us, upset that warning notices had not been sent to him directly, even though he was responsible for the property. He was also adamant that the garbage the City removed had not belonged to his tenants, since he paid for private waste collection.

We reviewed documents sent by the City and spoke to Solid Waste Management staff. We identified several fairness problems, including the fact that the letter they had sent did not clearly explain the specific garbage disposal issue or the service charge. It did not clearly inform property owners of their responsibility to keep the area in front of their property clear of waste, regardless of whether they used a private collection service. It did not explain that the City’s policy is to remove improperly disposed garbage at the property owner’s expense, regardless of whose garbage it may be. It also did not inform property owners that they could contact 311 to report illegal dumping.

Fairness required that Solid Waste Management Services give property owners clear and easy to understand information about their responsibilities and the consequences of not meeting them. That did not happen in Mr. P’s case.

At our recommendation, Solid Waste Management reimbursed Mr. P. for the service charge. They also improved their communications to property owners.