According to a news report out of Atlanta this week, a landlord was slapped with a former tenant’s $19,000 water bill and threatened with a property lien if she doesn’t pay up.
The reporter’s investigation revealed that, while the city claims the property owner ultimately is responsible for the bill, they did nothing to shut down the account once it became delinquent. Instead, they continued to supply the tenant, as the outstanding balance grew enormous.
It is not clear whether the landlord can appeal the decision, but it is possible the only recourse will be to attempt to collect reimbursement from the tenant.
In fact, there is little landlords in a similar situation can do to avoid such losses. This case makes it clear that landlords should speak with the utility when the tenant moves in and demand to be notified should the account go into default. Also, landlords should check outstanding utility balances on exiting tenants before returning a security deposit, and hold on to the tenant’s forwarding address.
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