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Chapter 21.16 Rates and Charges

21.16.010 Setting Water Rates.

Each year, Portland City Council sets water rates for the coming fiscal year (the year starting in July and ending in June). The rates reflect the Portland Water Bureau’s estimated funding needs.

For more about rates: Portland City Charter, Section 11-105.

21.16.030 Billing Responsibility.

The property owner (as listed in county tax records) is responsible for paying water charges.  A tenant or another person may accept responsibility for water charges, but the property owner is responsible for any unpaid bills.

The City bills for water service every day, even if the property is unoccupied or does not have a structure on it. The property owner is responsible for all water charges, even if the property is vacant.

When one meter serves multiple units, the property owner is responsible for payment.  When separate meters are provided are provided to each unit on the property, that are under separate ownership, the owner of the unit is responsible for payment.  A person other than the owner of the property may accept responsibility for payment, but the property owner is still responsible for any unpaid bills.

The property owner is responsible for all water charges if the tenant has not accepted responsibility, or if bills are unpaid.

Either the property owner or a tenant may notify the Portland Water Bureau of the date to open or close a tenant’s account.  If there are multiple notices, the Portland Water Bureau will use the first date it received to open or close the account.

If a person wants to change the date to open or close an account, the Portland Water Bureau may change it if the property owner, tenant and the Portland Water Bureau agree.  The Portland Water Bureau will not mediate billing responsibility date disputes between landlord and tenant.

The Portland Water Bureau may visit a property to determine whether it is vacant.  If the Portland Water Bureau determines that it is vacant, the Portland Water Bureau must start billing water charges to the property owner or the person responsible for the bill on the date of the visit.  The property owner is responsible for these charges and any unpaid bills.

If a property owner, tenant, or other ratepayer has an outstanding balance on an account, the Portland Water Bureau may apply this balance to any of the other ratepayer’s accounts the Portland Water Bureau serves.  If a ratepayer has a credit at a property they no longer own, the Portland Water Bureau will apply the credits.

When a property is sold, the seller is responsible for all City utility charges until the date the buyer officially possesses the property.  If the seller and buyer do not agree about the possession date, the Portland Water Bureau will verify the date in county tax records.

21.16.040 Delinquent Utility Bills.

A.  When any charge is more than 10 days late, the Portland Water Bureau may shut off service.

B.  The Portland Water Bureau gives written notice to the service address before shutting water off for nonpayment. The notice shows the planned shutoff date.

The notice also includes information about the property owner, tenant, or ratepayer’s right to challenge the shutoff through an administrative review process.

C.  The property owner, tenant, or ratepayer must make sure the Portland Water Bureau has their current and most accurate billing address. The Portland Water Bureau is not responsible for checking addresses.

D.  The Portland Water Bureau may turn water back on if one of the following conditions has been met:

1.  All outstanding charges have been paid.

2.  Payment arrangements (online, by phone, by email, in person or by mail) have been made with the Portland Water Bureau.

E.  When the Portland Water Bureau shuts off or turns on water, it adds charges to the water account as specified in the Annual Rates Ordinance.

F.  The Portland Water Bureau may postpone shutoff when:

1.  Lack of water endangers health or cause substantial hardship. The Portland Water Bureau may decide to continue water service for a specified amount of time.

2.  A written payment arrangement for all delinquent amounts has been accepted by the Portland Water Bureau.

G.  If payments are not made as agreed in the payment arrangement, the Portland Water Bureau may shut off water and not turn it on again until charges are paid in full.

H.  The Portland Water Bureau may institute legal proceedings and may work with collection agencies to collect delinquent charges.

I.  The Portland Water Bureau collects delinquent sanitary sewer and stormwater management charges in the same ways it collects delinquent water charges consistent with the City’s debt collection policies.

J.  If the delinquent bill does not include water charges, the City may collect the funds in the ways described in Portland City Code Sections 3.24.020 and 3.24.030.

21.16.090 Deposit and Application.

An application, deposit, or both, for water service may be required if the service has been shut off for nonpayment, or the person responsible for the service have filed bankruptcy and who are requesting service or continuation of service.  Failure to provide either the application, deposit, or both, within the due date specified by the Portland Water Bureau may result in discontinuance of service.

21.16.110 Portland Water Bureau May Contract for Collection of Revenues.

The Commissioner-in-Charge of the Portland Water Bureau and the Auditor may contract with collection agencies to collect water revenue using standard City contracting practices. These contracts may last up to five years.

Contracts allow for the collection agencies to be paid to collect revenue and may cover certain expenses related to revenue collection.

The contracts must require that a bond be furnished by the collection agent or the City, at the City’s option.

21.16.120 Collections, Adjustments and Refunds.

A.  The Portland Water Bureau calculates charges and bills ratepayers every month, every other month or every quarter, as requested by the customer.

B.  The Portland Water Bureau is responsible for receiving, adjusting and refunding ratepayer money. The Portland Water Bureau must make sure that charges and credits are updated in ratepayers’ accounts.

The Portland Water Bureau may adjust bills, pay refunds or waive fees and charges.

To make an adjustment, the Portland Water Bureau must either credit or charge an account.

C.  The Portland Water Bureau may authorize an adjustment (a charge or credit) after a billing error. The Portland Water Bureau may only adjust bills within three years after the Portland Water Bureau became aware of the error.

An account is eligible for this kind of adjustment as long as it is active, or for 6 months after the Portland Water Bureau issues a final bill. The Annual Rates Ordinance describes the threshold for refunds.

D.  Ratepayers (typically the property owner or tenant) must inform the Portland Water Bureau if the person responsible for paying the bill changes. If the Portland Water Bureau needs to bill a person other than the current customer or ratepayer, the Portland Water Bureau will reissue the bill from the date the new person became responsible. Refer to Section 21.16.030.

E.  The Portland Water Bureau may create administrative rules with the Bureau of Environmental Services regarding adjustments, refunds or waivers of sanitary sewer and stormwater management charges.

21.16.150 Testing Meters.

A.  If a ratepayer requests that the Portland Water Bureau check the accuracy of the water use reported on their bill, the Portland Water Bureau will reread the meter and inspect the service for leaks.

If the ratepayer requests that the Portland Water Bureau test the meter, the ratepayer must submit a deposit to cover the test cost. The cost of the test is in the Annual Rates Ordinance.

B.  If the meter registers 3 percent or more higher than actual water flow, the Portland Water Bureau must refund the deposit, estimate how much the ratepayer has been overbilled and issue a credit. The credit may appear on the current bill or the most recent bill. The Portland Water Bureau will also repair or replace the meter.

C.  If the meter registers within 3 percent of actual water flow, the Portland Water Bureau will keep the deposit.

21.16.160 Service Installation Fees.

Service installation fees may be paid on a fixed price basis if identified in the Annual Rates Ordinance.

For service installations not listed in the Annual Rates Ordinance, the Portland Water Bureau charges its costs for the project plus overhead based on the Site Specific Fee Statement. Also refer to City Code, Title 5.

The Site Specific Fee Statement provides an applicant with the following choice:

A.  Fixed fee, with no reconciliation; or,

B.  Pay estimate, the Portland Water Bureau reconciles. The Chief Engineer determines that the actual cost of installation will be different than the charges in the site specific fee estimate.  The Chief Engineer determines the amount to be paid or refunded after construction and then:

1.  If the actual cost is higher than the estimated cost, the applicant must pay the Portland Water Bureau the difference.

2.  If the actual cost is lower than the estimated cost, the Portland Water Bureau must refund the applicant the difference.

3.  The applicant may appeal to the Administrator. The Administrator’s decision is final.

If there is an existing service with a meter, either a service-branch or service-curb, the applicant must pay the applicable charges. Refer to Section 21.16.170.

21.16.170 System Development Charge.

Anyone applying for a new service connection or a larger existing connection must pay a System Development Charge (SDC). SDCs are listed in the Annual Rates Ordinance.

Credit from an existing service may only be applied to a new service if the existing service is removed when the new service is installed.

Services where SDC’s are waived:

A.  Fire protection

B.  Affordable housing

C.  Temporary

D.  Mass shelter

E.  Short-term housing

F.  Certain types of accessory dwelling unit

For SDC exemptions refer to City Code Section 30.01.095 (affordable housing); Portland City Code Section 21.12.090 (temporary service); and City Code Section 17.14.070 (certain types of housing).

21.16.180 Water Connection Assistance.

The City may provide water connection assistance to eligible property owners or tenants with separate meters based on criteria established each year in the Annual Rates Ordinance. The Administrator may adopt administrative rules and procedures necessary to implement the water connection assistance criteria described in the Annual Rates Ordinance.

The City may give payment deferrals and loans to property owners or tenants for water System Development Charges. The Administrator may adopt administrative rules and procedures for these deferrals and loans.

21.16.190 Charges for Water Used through a Fire Protection Service.

The Portland Water Bureau may not charge for water used to extinguish a fire.

For pressure testing a fire protection system, the Portland Water Bureau charges based on either the amount of water used (if there is a meter) or an estimate (if there is no meter).

For flow testing, the Portland Water Bureau requires the tester to use a meter and charges based on the amount of water used.

The City does not normally charge sewer fees for fire protection system testing. However, if the testing uses enough water to have a measurable impact on the sewer system, the City may also charge for sewer.

Fire service testing must be done carefully so that it does not interfere with the water system. Anyone testing a fire service must follow these rules:

A.  Flow testing must not reduce the pressure in the main to less than 50 percent of the maximum static pressure.

B.  Flow testing must not reduce the pressure in the main below 30 psi.

C.  Before testing large flows, the tester must consult with the Portland Water Bureau. Together, the tester and the Portland Water Bureau must determine flow limits and make a plan for limiting impacts to the water system.

If a fire service is repeatedly tested in a way that violates Portland Water Bureau policy or affects the system more than the Portland Water Bureau allows, the Portland Water Bureau will reclassify the type of service and collect a System Development Charge.

21.16.200 Charges for Unauthorized Use Service – Fire.

A.  A service - fire is only for extinguishing fires and testing the fire system and may not be used for domestic, maintenance or irrigation water. Refer to Section 21.12.220.

B.  The Portland Water Bureau may fine a person for unauthorized service-fire line use. The Portland Water Bureau charges more for each use of unauthorized water through a service-fire line. If unauthorized use continues, the Portland Water Bureau installs a meter and bills the property owner for the full cost of the meter, its installation and System Development Charges. Refer to Annual Rates Ordinance for more information on service-fire line charges.

21.16.220 Billing and Collection for Others by Contract.

Portland City Council may create contracts for the Portland Water Bureau to bill and collect for other public and private entities. When the Portland Water Bureau collects for another entity, it deposits the revenue in a separate account.

Upcoming and Recent Changes

Ordinance Number 190228

Effective Date

Ordinance No. 190228 code changes updated online code 2/9/2021.

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