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Apartment Owners Struggle With Raised Water Rates

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LAWTON Okla_ Lawton's water rate hike has only been in place for a few weeks, but the impact is already hitting apartment complex owners and rental property managers hard.

When the bills came in, they were shocked by just how much they had gone up, and now they're scrambling to find ways to cover those higher costs. This increase directly affects one complex's owners' ability to operate. The higher cost of water is yet another setback. This year alone, the increases in the costs of maintenance and insurance have forced them to reduce their staff by half. Now, they have a 10% increase on their water bill to cover.

"It's disconcerting," Complex Owner Dale Nomura said. "It's frustrating. It's sad."

For Nomura, this month's increase was expected, but she never imagined it would be this much.

"I've got a $1,200, almost $1,300 increase," Nomura said. "That's what I will be paying each month."

Nomura closely monitors the bills, and when she compared this month's to her one from 2012, she was shocked. 

"On the bill last year and the bill this year, the amount of usage is the same," Nomura said. "The difference is the price."

The increase on the apartment complex's water bill is having a big impact on their business. The addition of lots of new apartment complexes and homes combined with fewer soldiers stationed at Fort Sill has caused business to be slow for awhile.

"We have been not really making any money for going on two years," Nomura said. "Maybe $1,000 clearing a month, which means we have no money to live on."

Now, that $1,000 per month will be going to cover water.

"We are doing fine as the property, but that $1,000 per month has just been taken away with this $1,300 increase in our bill."

For Nomura, it's no-win situation. The immediate solution would be to raise rent, but that could put the complex out of business.

"There are not enough people here to rent our apartments, so if you raise the rent, you are going to go under," Nomura said. "They are going to go live at one of those other complexes."

Nomura is frustrated that what she has built in eight years could be lost.

"We put millions of dollars into the Lawton economy, and we may lose our property because of things like this," Nomura said. "We are so close to not being able to afford it, because there are not enough people to live here, and the bills keep going up."

This change will not immediately affect the residents. Like most rental properties, the tenants have locked in their rate for the length of their contract. So, complexes are searching for other ways to cover the added costs.



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