Photo by PoPville flickr user LaTur
I wonder if anyone in the community has had a similar experience to advise on a situation I have encountered as a tenant. We lease a row house to a property management company that oversees our space (in addition to others) owned by a landlord living outside the country. We have been living here for about 2 years and have never been directly billed for our water use. The first several months of our residence we were continually receiving bills and delinquent payment notices addressed to homeowner, some of which included DC Water. After notifying the property manager several times, including expressively inquiring the status of the DC Water account, we were assured that it would be taken care of.
Our lease states that we are responsible for ‘individually metered’ water utility charges but the bills have since sopped arriving in our post box. However, we’ve just received a call from the property manager that the landlord has (only now) realized that he has had the water account setup to automatically debit the full bill amount from his personal credit card/bank account each month and has unknowingly paid for our collective water usage for over 24 months.
This is not the first occasion where our management company has shown exteemly poor oversight for the properties they are responsible for. We have always minded their absent, “hands off” approach in the past, including delinquent responses to pest control issues, badly repaired structural maintenance tasks, and an overall lack of authority for the legalities of renting a home. This attitude came off at first as a minuscule tradeoff for the autonomy we felt as tenants but this has gone to far. How much recourse is the landlord owed and what is the worse case scenario for us as tenants? Looking at the math, this could be between 60-80$/month X 24 months = ~$1500-1800! Are we to be expected to refund the landlord? Can it be deducted from our security deposit? Might he sue us? The property managers? Help!”