FOX47 NEWS - Tenants' Uncertain Future
Alliant Energy ended its moratorium on power disconnects for people who haven't paid their bills on April 15th.
That includes people living in 14 apartment buildings in Rock County.
Because most of these building have a single meter, the utility company bills the landlord, rather than individual tenants.
Alliant Energy said it's keeping the power on for now, and is working with the landlord to come up with a payment plan.
But, in this economy, keeping the lights on isn't easy.
Sometimes, the bills add up to more than the take-home pay.
I only got like $2,500 a month. My rent was $1,000. I had to meet my children's needs, my house's needs, my vehicle's needs. I couldn't put gas in my van, said former tenant Deann Boyne.
Dozens of tenants on Jackson Street have fallen behind on their bills. They say they're struggling to make ends meet.
I had a job, and all of a sudden they let me go, said tenant Katrina Leffler. Then I had a part time job, and right now I'm getting unemployment.
There is some hurt there because you just can't afford it -- my van is breaking down and I had to put new tires on it. I'm on fixed income, said tenant Joanne Spooner. It's rough sometimes.
The utility bill is actually the landlord's responsibility. But when he's not collecting rent, he can't pay for what he says is now a $43,000 electric bill.
Our tenants are primarily low-income individuals, said landlord Billy Kesselring. As the job losses in our county started, they got pushed to the bottom of the barrel, further and further to the bottom.
Kesselring says of the 83 apartments he rents, only 22 of them pay their rent on time.
I had some tenants that were turning in job applications to me every week for six months, just to prove that they were trying, so I would not evict them.
Kesselring says, without electricity, the city may order tenants to vacate because of health and safety concerns.
Kesselring is working with local, state, and federal agencies, hoping for financial help to pay the bills and keep a roof over everyone's head.
The situation is having a economic domino effect on several people, including the Kesselring.
He's in the process of buying the apartment buildings thru land contracts.
The people holding those contracts say Kesselring still owes them more than $100,000. When they don't get paid, the the two banks holding the mortgages don't get paid.
Meanwhile, Alliant Energy has set up a help line for those people who've fallen behind on their energy bills. (800) 327-2708