CLASS ACTION : OVERCHARGING NEW TENANTS FOR UNPAID FORMER TENANT’S WATER & SEWER BILLS – AND THE CITY OF NORTH MIAMI BEACH
It’s official : New Tenants and Outstanding Utility Bills are not connected to one another!
If an unpaid utility bill is in the former tenant’s name & not in the landlord’s name, then under Florida law, a utility provider may NOT ; Ask for payment of unpaid utility bills from the landlord, Discontinue service or Refuse the new tenant service to the property. To do so is illegal and violates Florida Statute 180.135, case law, the Municipal Public Works Act & the Florida Consumer Collection Practice Act.
Additionally, the utility provider can not place any lien against the rental property or take any legal action against the Landlord or new tenant to recover overdue bills. In Berke v. City of Miami Beach, 568 So.2d 108 (Fla. 3rd DCS 1990) the City of Miami Beach filed a lien against the rental property for the unpaid utility bills of the former tenants. The court of appeals ruled, that the City could not impose a lien against the rental property. The fact that the former tenants received utilities, was deemed not to be a benefit to the landlord. The Court further stated that the City should have protected itself by requiring the landlord to co-sign for the utility account.
(Read about this problem also here in a previous blog post)
So,one would think that since the law is very clear, new tenants and landlords should not be hassled by a utility provider to pay the bills of former tenants. Surprisingly, that is not case.
If onboarding new tenants and outstanding utility bills is an issue with your rental properties then Push back! Tell them the law! Let them know that recently a class action was certified by a Miami Dade Circuit Judge, alleging that the City of North Miami Beach has been illegally charging utility connection fees, forcing new tenants to pay delinquent bills of former occupants before they could receive water and sewer service. Since the law is clear, the lawsuit claims that the city’s collection efforts of outstanding utility bills from former tenants has been in violation of several state laws
This practice, says Patrick Montoya, an attorney representing this class action suit, “has likely victimized hundreds if not thousands of tenants”.
It is about time that we are taking this fight to the courts to stop these illegal charges. They add up and impact the return on your investment.
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