The Shocking Truth About Your Solid Waste Management Bill (Garbage)

January 23rd, 2012 · 2 Comments · Landlord Advocacy

trash art
Creative Commons License photo credit: Alex [Fino] LA

Sometimes you discover a large dirty secret you were not supposed to figure out…

Application To Vary A Rent Reduction

Folks, I have an unfortunate flaw. I hate people getting ripped off and screwed around. Earlier this year the City of Toronto thought it would be a good idea to reduce every single one of my tenants rent because we had a property tax decrease. Yah! You’d think that would be good, less to pay right?

Wrong! The only reason we got a tax reduction is because the City of Toronto has decided to take the Solid Waste Management part of the property tax bill and shift it to the utility bill with Water and Sewer.

Here’s the math roughly…

Property Taxes:     – $4,000

Utility Bill:             +$10,000

Loss to us :             – $ 6000

Rent Reduction:    – $ 5000

Total Loss              –  $ 11,000/year

How To Fill Out An Application To Vary A Rent Reduction

  1. Get your 2 property tax bills together
  2. Get your notice of Rent Reduction from the City
  3. Get all Your Utility Bills for the last 2 years together
  4. Fill out the Application to Vary a Rent Reduction
  5. Fill out a Schedule of Parties and name each tenant
  6. Go file the case at the Landlord & Tenant Board

That’s how far I got. I’m waiting for the city to mail me duplicates of two missing bills and then I’m going to file.

Looking At Your Solid Waste Management Bill

Going through this process caused me to look at the bill. The City of Toronto are really devious.  When you see elaborate, extensive calculations required to figure out a simple thing like like garbage pickup you have to know you’re really getting screwed. This is what I found.

I have 2 three yard bins that get picked up twice each week. That’s a total of 4 bins pickups per week X 52 weeks = 208 pick ups annually X 3 yards per bin or 624 cubic yards of garbage annually.

Now if you look at your bill, you will never figure this crap out. If the bills had identical amount of days on them the charge would be the same every month. Your bill is prorated to the number of days. Even when I break it down to the day, the bill charges vary for some inexplicable reason. THE VOLUME OF MY CONTAINERS STAYS THE SAME!

There’s A Rebate!

Good luck with that. Your rebate adds another level of complexity to an already tortuous calculation. Why bother? Just give me a straight price.

There’s An Excess Volume Charge!

So I’ve been a bad bad property manager and I have failed my tenants education in the art of recycling. Because I have failed to teach them they continue to make garbage like we all wish we could.  No sorting, wrapping, separating or blessing the garbage. They walk over to the chute and throw it in. Simple, easy and costly but they’ll never have to pay for a dime of the excess charges so… very nice for them and not so much for the owner who does have to pay.

Compacted VS Uncompacted

I have 2 bins one is for the compactor and the other is for garbage too big to go down the small opening in each chute room. The city of Toronto charges me for 2 compacted bins even though one is never compacted. I should be charged for two compacted and two uncompacted bins per week. This calculation also affects the amount of garbage you can put out without excess charges. The City allows you a certain amount for your “rebate” according to the number of units you have. You can put out twice the amount of uncompacted as compacted garbage.

So basically I can put out less and get charged double if all my garbage was compacted. This makes sense because you can put more compacted garbage in the bin than uncompacted. Unfortunately the reality is that every building needs at least one bin of uncompacted garbage for the stuff that does not go down the chute. The compactor is at the bottom of the chute and compacts only that garbage.

When I called the City to ask why they are overcharging me I got some cockamamie story about supers in a mythical stacked townhouse complex rolling the bins around to compact all their garbage to save them money.

July 2008 is when they started charging for all compacted garbage even if all your garbage is not compacted.

Charging For Every Bin Lift

In the City of Toronto documentation it states that you are charged for the full fee as if that bin were completely full.

Close The Chute!

I still want to save money, so if I were to pay for only uncompacted garbage that would save me money. There is a pilot program for this except… it requires 51% of the residents to vote to close the chute rooms. Then the residents can at any time decide to unlock them by gathering 51% of the residents to vote again. You must also apply to the City to be approved for this wonderfully democratic program. I wonder if the City got every one of their stupid garbage initiatives passed by petitioning everyone that lives in the city? No they did not. They just said “Hey! from  now on you minions are going to put your garbage out the way we tell you to.” Finito.

Recycle, Recycle, Recycle…

Here’s an article about how unprepared buildings and condos were for the new fees. So how much would your residents have to recycle to save money ? One whole dumpster’s worth. In our case 25% of the garbage of the building would have to be put into the recycling containers per week. I would even suggest that that is close to impossible. If you had more dumpsters you might be able to avoid dumping one per week. But..when I suggested this to the super – he asked me for bigger containers. The other thing you could do is get smaller bins and get charged less per load.

My Conclusions

  1. The city had deliberately set out to obfuscate your Solid Waste Management bill with overly complex calculations for a simple problem
  2. Even after spending several hours on phone and looking at the sample bills on their website, I am still unable to determine how much garbage I am allowed to put out without incurring excess charges
  3. I am unable to figure out the rhyme or reason to their volume charges, They should be charging me for the exact same volume every year, every week, every month unless I change my bin size.
  4. No allowances are made for the size of the apartments, a building like this one with 90% three bedrooms with families is going to generate a lot more garbage than one with the same amount of units but one bedrooms
  5. I am being overcharged for compacted garbage when only 50% of my garbage is compacted. I am being overcharged twice, once in my volume allowance and twice with excess charges for uncompacted bins. This is 50% of my output. The difference is about 25% of the bill since 2008.
  6. The chute closure program is idiotic, I’d be surprised if the City has closed even one chute with their “initiative”.
  7. The only way to save money is to eliminate tipping of one or more bins, if the bin is half full you get charged full price. 
  8. Recycling programs are a waste of time for money savings for building, you will not save money unless you can recycle enough to eliminate one bin tipping which is unlikely.

Asking For The Money Back

I began the task of speaking to the City last week. I want the money they’ve overcharged since 2008 back and obviously I want them to charge properly going forward.

The last time I was this frustrated by a bill was when I had a cell phone with Telus. The billing system is broken if you must be a rocket scientist to figure out your bills. Is there anyone out there who can actually understand the Solid Waste Management billing system? Anyone from other cities have incomprehensible bills?






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