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Tucson homeowners outraged over trash bill

KGUN 9 gets resolution for customers
Posted at 7:59 PM, Jun 24, 2020

TUCSON, Ariz. — Neighbors in a southwest Tucson neighborhood say they got overcharged when their HOA made a change to their trash service.

KGUN 9 received a ton of emails from homeowners in the Star Valley Master Community who say they were being taken advantage of by their trash company Waste Management.

Charlie DePhillips has lived in the Star Valley Master Community for 14 years and says he was always able to select his own trash company. Then last month the homeowners association gave the community a chance to vote for a single vendor and after getting 3 bids they chose Republic Services.

Soon after, Charlie and 549 other Waste Management customers received a letter saying that service was ending on June 30th ... Then days later a bill showed up in the mail and neighbors started posting their frustrations online.

Charlie says Waste Management was charging over $100 dollars to pick up the trash cans because of the canceled service.

“In my opinion, they’re price gouging and most of these people aren’t working. They want to charge $75 for pick-up, $21.95 for fuel charge, $3.49 for recovery, and $6.50 for an administrative charge. $107 to have pails picked up," De Phillips said.

According to documents obtained by KGUN 9, the charge should only apply if the customer cancels, but Charlie and his neighbors say they never did.

The changeover was supposed to happen at the end of each individual contract. The trash company decided to end all of the contracts at the end of June.

"They want to charge $22 to go from my house to the house next door and they said we can’t drop them off,” DePhillips said.

The Star Valley Master Homeowners Association released a statement saying:

The Board of Directors and Platinum Management have been working diligently to negotiate a resolution to the $75 trash can pick up fee on behalf of our homeowners in Star Valley. We contacted several representatives from the Homeowners Association Division of Waste Management to request a lower fee for the collection of these cans. We explained that with the current economic conditions due to the outbreak of COVID, several of our homeowners are suffering from job loss/furlough and there are some struggling to feed their families. We requested they honor a $35.00 pickup fee recently charged to another local homeowner association going through a trash provider change, however they refused with no explanation. Our repeated requests for a lower fee have been either denied or ignored. There were several homeowners who contacted us that had been in an email discussion with Waste Management regarding the trash can pickup fees. They wanted to let us know that Waste Management was notifying those who contacted them via email that the Association had agreed to this fee. The email from Waste Management which was forwarded to us states: “We have arranged to remove your containers within 72 hours of your last service day Friday, June 26th. As per the arrangement with your HOA. With that arrangement, it was agreed upon the $75 removal cost for both of these containers, as this charge helps to go towards the cost of removing, cleaning, and repairing the containers for the next use.” The Star Valley Master Homeowners Association at no time agreed to any fees being charged to the homeowners. In fact, at no time did any member of the Board of Directors or the team from Platinum Management have a discussion with Waste Management regarding the pickup of the trash cans, related fees, or the individual contractual relationship they had with the Star Valley Homeowners who utilize their services. We contacted them demanding they immediately stop making this false statement, which they agreed to do. We also offered to pick up all the cans belonging to Waste Management and deliver those cans to any location specified by Waste Management. We were told that if we delivered the cans to their location, there would be no proof the cans were turned in and the homeowners would be charged for the cost of the containers, which they explained are “very expensive.” Another request made was to find out if the pickup fee could be made in payments, which was also denied with the explanation the fee had to be paid immediately upon request for the cans to picked up. If not paid the cans would not be picked up and the homeowner would be charged for the cost of the cans. The most recent development is the information received in our office that Waste Management has canceled service for all 279 homeowners in Star Valley effective July 1st rather than allowing the term of service on the current individual contracts to expire. Further, we have been told that the contract’s fine print states that the homeowner is not responsible for payment of a can pick up fee when service is canceled by Waste Management. We have not been able to review the contract to verify this information yet. We are suggesting to all homeowners who contact us to review their contracts for this information. Bottom line- Our continued requests to negotiate a resolution to help our homeowners with this issue have been refused."

Within 24 hours of reaching out to Waste Management KGUN 9 received an email stating that the company lowered the $100 dollar fee.

Waste Management recognizes that the Star Valley HOA leadership mandated the change of hauling service; this was not the independent decision of our nearly 550 local customers. As a goodwill gesture to our longtime customers, WM will reduce the cart removal charge to $35 per home and apply the credit to the customer’s account.

It is important to note that this fee reduction will only apply to those Star Valley HOA households where WM is able to successfully retrieve the WM trash and recycling carts as scheduled. All WM carts must be left at the curb following the household’s last service collection so that our team can retrieve them.

“I just want to thank Channel 9 for the help and getting back to us,” De Phillips said.

Right now there are over 1,500 homes in the community.