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El Cajon places fewer property liens for unpaid trash bills

Waning of the pandemic

As they've done for years, El Cajon is moving to place liens on homes that are at least two months behind on their refuse, collection and recycling charges.

Although it's been routine practice in El Cajon since 1996, when mandatory trash service began for all single-family homes, for some it's still a burden.

The lien process only applies to the city's 14,000 single family accounts. In some cases, the property is rented out - and a tenant has skipped out. Under the city's ordinance, the legal owner of the property is responsible for the bill.

But the pandemic left many tenants unable to pay rent, let alone bills.

"I have a tenant who owes me over $10,000," said property owner Maxim Moya last May, during another public hearing on the topic. The rental agreement made the tenant responsible for bills, and Moya, who never signed a contract with Waste Management, was stunned when the company filed a lien against him.

"Do you think that's fair?"

One thing has changed, though. The city has greatly whittled down the number of residential accounts with unpaid trash fees.

In January, 2021, the city hired a new franchise hauler, EDCO, replacing Waste Management. As before, the hauler bills each customer directly, with the city assisting "as needed" by sending unpaid amounts to the owners' property tax bill, then remitting the money collected to the hauler.

The city typically holds about three lien hearings per year.

According to staff, in 2017, there were 478 delinquent accounts, owing a total of $71,670. In 2021, the first full year working with EDCO, there were only 124, totaling $37,158.

The city considers some of the reduction to the waning of the pandemic, with people returning to work and better able to catch up on bills. But they also see a year-long outreach effort by EDCO as having helped, everything from follow up calls to tags placed on bins.

Being local, head-quartered in Lemon Grove, is a plus. In addition, the residential rate hasn't gone up much, council member Steve Goble noted at last week's hearing.

Deputy mayor Michelle Metschel asked what happens to residents if a lien is placed on their property.

Mike James, deputy director for public works, said the first step is figuring out what's owed. There are fees on top of the lien amount; a 10 percent city fee for a delinquent account, as well as the city clerk and county recording fees. After determining the amount, the liens are recorded.

Metschel said some of the bills are over $400. "And if that doesn't get paid, can they lose their property if they don't pay their garbage fee?"

James said the amount goes on to their property tax bill, and if they don't pay that after four or five years, then they become delinquent on their property tax. At that point, the county can sell the property, and the city would get its portion of the amount back.

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As they've done for years, El Cajon is moving to place liens on homes that are at least two months behind on their refuse, collection and recycling charges.

Although it's been routine practice in El Cajon since 1996, when mandatory trash service began for all single-family homes, for some it's still a burden.

The lien process only applies to the city's 14,000 single family accounts. In some cases, the property is rented out - and a tenant has skipped out. Under the city's ordinance, the legal owner of the property is responsible for the bill.

But the pandemic left many tenants unable to pay rent, let alone bills.

"I have a tenant who owes me over $10,000," said property owner Maxim Moya last May, during another public hearing on the topic. The rental agreement made the tenant responsible for bills, and Moya, who never signed a contract with Waste Management, was stunned when the company filed a lien against him.

"Do you think that's fair?"

One thing has changed, though. The city has greatly whittled down the number of residential accounts with unpaid trash fees.

In January, 2021, the city hired a new franchise hauler, EDCO, replacing Waste Management. As before, the hauler bills each customer directly, with the city assisting "as needed" by sending unpaid amounts to the owners' property tax bill, then remitting the money collected to the hauler.

The city typically holds about three lien hearings per year.

According to staff, in 2017, there were 478 delinquent accounts, owing a total of $71,670. In 2021, the first full year working with EDCO, there were only 124, totaling $37,158.

The city considers some of the reduction to the waning of the pandemic, with people returning to work and better able to catch up on bills. But they also see a year-long outreach effort by EDCO as having helped, everything from follow up calls to tags placed on bins.

Being local, head-quartered in Lemon Grove, is a plus. In addition, the residential rate hasn't gone up much, council member Steve Goble noted at last week's hearing.

Deputy mayor Michelle Metschel asked what happens to residents if a lien is placed on their property.

Mike James, deputy director for public works, said the first step is figuring out what's owed. There are fees on top of the lien amount; a 10 percent city fee for a delinquent account, as well as the city clerk and county recording fees. After determining the amount, the liens are recorded.

Metschel said some of the bills are over $400. "And if that doesn't get paid, can they lose their property if they don't pay their garbage fee?"

James said the amount goes on to their property tax bill, and if they don't pay that after four or five years, then they become delinquent on their property tax. At that point, the county can sell the property, and the city would get its portion of the amount back.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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