What are my rights if a previous business owner won’t pay bills that I am now being charged for?

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What are my rights if a previous business owner won’t pay bills that I am now being charged for?

I took over a business lease 2 years ago. The previous owner said that the water would be free. But a few months later, I received a water and trash bill for $2,000. I talked to the previous owner but they didn’t want to pay the bill. Landlord keeps sending the bill to me and says I’m responsible for it.

Asked on January 12, 2012 under Real Estate Law, North Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Did you buy the business structure (the corporation or LLC)? Or if you did not, did you take over the lease from the prior owner? If you did either of these things, then you are responsible for the bill, since you either own the business entity that is liable or stepped into the shoes of the tenant who owed the money.

Of course, you may be able to sue the seller to seek reimbursement, since it appears he misrepresented the expenses, bills, obligations, etc. to you; such a material misrepresentation would be fraud, and would give rise to a claim for compensation.

If you neither bought the LLC or corporation (e.g. just bought the name and assets) and also did not take over the existing lease, then you should not be liable for the prior owner's or business's debts.


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