What to do if the water company claims that I owe $500 on a water bill for a property that was empty?

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What to do if the water company claims that I owe $500 on a water bill for a property that was empty?

Long story short, my tenant moved out of the property and when she lived there the bill was averaging $35 a month. The home was empty for 3 months. I got a water bill with my name on it saying that I owe $500. Yet, I never activated service with the city. I keep calling them and calling them but they won’t call me back, not one of them. I even went into the office to talk about it and no one was giving me straight answers. The meter is obviously broken. The new tenant is there now and the bill is back to being only $30. It seems like there’s nothing I can do since no one will

call/write me back and they’ll eventually put a lien on my house. What can I do? There are no leaks on the property at all.

Asked on March 16, 2019 under Real Estate Law, North Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

You don't have any good options. You do have a legal right to challenge the bill in court, either by 1) bringing a legal action yourself for a "declaratory judgment" (court determination) as to what you owe, or 2) by waiting to see if they take action against you (e.g. sue you; or a lien) and then defend against it. But if you don't hire a lawyer to help you, you'll be at a huge disadvantage; if you do hire a lawyer, you'll spend more than $500 on the case; and you'll also need some evidence that there was no leak or other reason for the charge (e.g. last tenant leaving something running; defective meter), which may be difficult to get or establish in court. Paying the bill, unfair as it is, is almost certainly your most cost- and time-effective option.


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