Living with credit

Pay your utility bills

Emily Crone

If you’ve ever defaulted on a loan or credit card, you have likely had creditors knocking on your door. If you fail to pay what you owe, many creditors hire private debt collection agencies to chase after you and try to recoup some of that cash, even if it’s just pennies on the dollar. But what happens if you fail to pay your city’s water or trash bill?

Emiy's list: Pay your utility bill editionThe practice of hiring debt collectors was primarily reserved for private companies, but things have changed in this shaky economic climate. Several city governments are now relying on private debt collectors to gather up funds from residents for unpaid utility bills, according to CNN Money.

Pittston, a small town in Pennsylvania with a population of just over 8,000, is one example. Residents currently owe the city about $250,000 in garbage fees. Rather than letting trash pile up around town, the city cleaned up anyway. But someone has to pay for the trucks, the fuel and the workers’ salaries. According to CNN Money, the city government has contracted with an outside debt collection agency to help return some of that money back to the city. Greg Gulick, a spokesman for the city, is quoted as saying, “They are going to go after them with whatever means they can.”

CNN has found that more than ever, institutions such as school boards, county courts, libraries and prison systems are also using outside debt collectors. In rough economic times, people have a harder time paying their bills, but these organizations still need funds to pay their workers and keep their own utilities running. Before you skip out on a utility bill, remember that the city can use the same type of debt collectors that your credit card companies employ. To say they are persistent is an understatement (check out Dan’s post on what it’s like being their target even when you don’t actually owe them money).


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