Water Bill - WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

Water Bill

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Now here is one for you. You get a water bill not from last month or last year, from 13 years ago when you didn't even live in the building. So do you have to pay a bill from a prior owner? It's why one man called Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

WSVN -- When Rene Nunez sits on the balcony of a condo he owns on Miami Beach looking at the boats on the Intercoastal, the traffic on Indian Creek Drive, he is a happy man.

Rene Nunez: "It's a great location. It's the best location on the beach."

In 2001, Rene and his wife bought three units at Waterside Condos.

Patrick Fraser: "Three separate closings?"

Rene Nunez: "Yes sir."

Patrick Fraser: "So there were three separate title searches?"

Rene Nunez: "I imagine so, yeah."

Then he says in 2013, the headaches arrived in the mail.

Rene Nunez: "13 years later they come and cut off the water because there is an outstanding bill from not the guy I bought the condo for that developed the condominium, but the prior owner."

In the 90s the building was a 10 unit apartment complex. The owner, an elderly woman sold it to a developer who converted it to condos. Now a $1,215 water bill is coming from the 90s.

Rene Nunez: "I had no idea why she didn't pay the water bill or nobody paid the water bill, but they want to collect now 13 years later."

The association pays the water bill for the entire building, and since each condo owner did a title search when they bought their unit and more title searches as the units were resold in the 2000s, it seems to mean the all the title searched missed the outstanding water bill or Miami Beach didn't reveal it.

Rene Nunez: "Somebody did something wrong now they want us to pay for something that happened 12 years ago, 13 years ago."

"Did you ask anybody why they waited 13, 14 years?"

Rene Nunez: "I asked and they don't have an answer."

Rene doesn't have a clear answer but plenty of opinions about the old water bill.

Rene Nunez: "They are crazy. I think that's illegal. Statute of limitations, something."

Well Howard, legally have you got that something Rene and the other condo owners are looking for?

Howard Finkelstein: "In all likelihood, the condo owners are not responsible. If the city did not notify the title companies of the outstanding bill at closing, the city can't collect the money. If the title companies didn't ask for any outstanding liens, they are responsible. But with so many closing on these condos since 2001, it's likely the blame rests with the city and they will have to eat that outstanding bill."

We spoke to the attorney who did the title searches for many of the condos in 2001. He no longer had the records but said in every case he asks for any liens and would have done at these condos. We asked Miami Beach for proof they provided the information during the title searches and they told us the title companies needed to show the proof. When we asked why, they waited so long to try to recover the money, I was told the city never stopped the attempt at collecting. But the condo owners say the city didn't even let them know about the old bill till 2013. Clearly no clear answers.

Howard Finkelstein: "If you buy a property, ask for outstanding bills, liens and check to see if there are open permits and above all, get the answers in writing and keep them as long as you own the property. Don't depend on someone else to protect you. Protect yourself."

Rene is glad the condo owners probably don't have to pay that old bill because while they live at a great location, they don't have great big wallets.

Rene Nunez: "I think it's crazy. Some of the people here can't afford to pay that extra $200 or $300 for a bill that's way back."

Patrick Fraser: "The city isn't clear why they didn't notify the condo association about that old bill for so long, but I can take a guess. The condo association was late on paying their water bill a couple of times. Odds are when the city pulled up their records, that's when they say that old bill, and that's when the trouble started for the association. If they hadn't had a late bill, this old bill probably would never have popped up."

Flooded with old problems that have left you tapped out? Feel like you are en-titled to a solution?

Let us do the search. Hopefully the solutions will trickle in and the bill will never appear because we are free.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:

E-mail: helpmehoward@wsvn.com (please include your contact phone number when e-mailing)

Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com

Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN

Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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