1

A person is renting a house. Per the rental agreement, it is their responsibility to cover the water and sewer bills.

The house is located in a community which is serviced by a submetering company. The submetering company owns and maintains the meters and sends the bills out to the property owners. Payments go to the submetering company, not the city.

The water is billed at tiered rates which are set by the city. The tiers work like this: for the first 2000 gallons of water consumed the household pays $1.40 per thousand gallons, for the gallons 2001 through 5000 it pays $3.00 dollars per thousand gallons and so on. The top tier rate of $14.00 per thousand gallons kicks in at 25000 gallons per month. A similar system works for the sewer.

On the paper, the submetering company does not charge anything above the city rates, except for a small fixed maintenance and administration fee, which does not depend on the consumption rate.

Now, here is the fun part.

Due to a clerical error, the city and the submetering company treat the whole neighborhood of about 200 properties as a single unit. This means that the consumption from all the properties of the whole neighborhood is added together for the purposes of calculating the tiers. The submetering company then divides them among all the households.

Effectively, that means the tier levels for each household are first 10 gallons, then 10 through 25, etc. That's gallons, not thousands. Taking the first shower or two in the beginning of a month kicks the resident right into the top tier, where they stay for the rest of the month.

Every household pays at the top tier rate ($14.00) after they have consumed first 125 gallons of water during the month.

This means that every month, a typical household's water bill is about $150 to $200 dollars higher compared to what it would have been had they been charged the city rates and tiers.

The submetering company has explained it in writing. The property owners, the HOA board and the property management company are aware of this. Nothing is being done about it, except writing angry posts in the community Facebook group. This has been going on for almost four years.

The lease is a standard form which has this clause:

Tenant shall pay for all utilities services during the Lease Term and connection charges and deposits for activating existing utility connections to the Premises except for ________, that Landlord agrees to provide at Landlord’s expense (If blank, then "NONE").

The blank is left blank. There is nothing specifying the rates of the services in the lease.

  1. Is there any recourse for a renter to avoid the overcharge caused by a clerical error?

  2. If and when this situation is resolved and the property owner receives their money back or an account credit, is the renter entitled to what they have overpaid during the lease? Does it matter if it happens before of after the lease will have ended?

This is in Florida, U.S.

1
  1. Is there any recourse for a renter to avoid the overcharge caused by a clerical error?

Probably not. Also, I am skeptical that it is a true clerical error as opposed to a bad policy due to a decision made by the developer who may not have been able to get the city to provide individual taps to each residence.

If and when this situation is resolved and the property owner receives their money back or an account credit, is the renter entitled to what they have overpaid during the lease?

The renter should receive the credit.

Does it matter if it happens before of after the lease will have ended?

Logically, it shouldn't.

2
  • could you please clarify what exactly you mean by "bad policy"? Jun 29 at 13:00
  • @FloridaRenter I mean an "unfair law".
    – ohwilleke
    Jun 30 at 0:31

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.