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I recently moved into a house in South Carolina. Upon trying to get my water turned on they informed me I was going to have to pay $1500 in "unpaid fees" in order to get it turned back on. I have a lease, I don't understand why I'm being held accountable for these fees. Can they really deny me water and force me to pay this?

  • So you are renting? Have you talked to your landlord? – mikeazo Sep 29 '16 at 18:58
  • @mikeazo yes, my uncle is the one who owns the house. he's letting me live here for extremely cheap, but he is unable to dish out 1500 dollars to pay the water company, whether it's his fault or the previous tenant. which, I'm assuming it was the previous tenants fault since they had water when they lived here. similarly, when I went to get internet, he also had about $200 unpaid on cable, but all I had to do was show my lease and I didn't have to pay it. why isn't the water company this way? – KruSuPhy Sep 29 '16 at 19:01
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    The water company is the local government (county or city). So that is a very different animal than the cable company. Often the water company can even put a lien on the property if payment has not been made. I'm assuming you explained that you are a new renter and not the old tenant, right? – mikeazo Sep 29 '16 at 19:20
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    It is the land lord's responsibility to ensure you have water. I couldn't find any specific South Carolina laws regarding this, but most likely the water company can deny service to the house for an unpaid bill. – mikeazo Sep 29 '16 at 19:36
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    Electricity, Water, Natural Gas, and Sewer service assessments are explicitly privileged in a way telecommunications services (telephone and cable/internet) are not: law.justia.com/codes/south-carolina/2013/title-5/chapter-31/… – user662852 Sep 29 '16 at 20:13
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South Carolina Code §27-33-50: Financial responsibility of tenant for utilities.

(A) Unless otherwise agreed in writing, a tenant has sole financial responsibility for gas, electric, water, sewerage, or garbage services provided to the premises the tenant leases, and a landlord is not liable for a tenant's account.

(B) An entity or utility providing gas, electric, water, sewerage, or garbage services must not:

(1) require a landlord to execute an agreement to be responsible for all charges billed to premises leased by a tenant; or

(2) discontinue or refuse to provide services to the premises the tenant leases based on the fact that the landlord refused to execute an agreement to be responsible for all the charges billed to the tenant leasing that premises.

(C) This provision does not apply to a landlord whose property is a multi-unit building consisting of four or more residential units served by a master meter or single connection.

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  • It's not clear to me that the phrase "a tenant has sole financial responsibility for gas, electric, water, sewerage, or garbage services provided to the premises the tenant leases" implies that the tenant has responsibility for water services provided before the lease began. Do we know whether or not that's the case? – Tanner Swett Feb 19 at 4:06
  • It clearly means the tenant at the time of the use of those services. Else it would make no sense, given how tenancy and tort law works. The answer should clarify that the result of the law is "No, they can't hold you liable or the landlord liable because that responsibility was on the tenant at the time and it's them that needs to be chased down". – Nij Feb 19 at 5:42
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Water charges are the responsibility of the person who has the contract with the water utility.

However, if they are unpaid, they become a lien over the property irrespective of who owns it. In fact, they usually have the right to seize the property and sell it to recover their money. They can also, as you found out, refuse to provide water until they get paid.

Unfortunately, your uncle needs to pay them and try to recover the money by suing the former tenant - I hope he still has their security deposit!

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    A more recent answer indicates that this is incorrect by law. The landlord is not and cannot be made liable for the water bills of the tenant except by terms in a written agreement between landlord and tenant, therefore not only is there no lien, refusal to provide service is illegal. – Nij Feb 19 at 4:05

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