5 On Your Side

Lease mistake causes flood of trouble

Posted December 17, 2008

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— A mistake left some Raleigh apartment residents being told to pay for water despite the fact it was included in their leases. In Myrtle Campbell’s case, her water got turned off.

“I had to go to my friend's house to take showers. And it was very inconvenient for us,” said Campbell.

The issue came up several weeks earlier, when Campbell got a memo from the Stony Brook apartment complex warning residents they had three weeks to "transfer the utilities" into their names or service would be "terminated."

Campbell and other residents have leases clearly stating water and sewer are included in the rent.

“How can someone do that to us? I mean, already in our rent that it is included. The water is included, so how can they make us pay for the water and be responsible for it?” Campbell said.

Campbell said the apartment manager told her to make the switch or the water would be shut off. She contacted the Raleigh Housing Authority, which oversees the complex, but says she did not hear back.

When her water was cut off, Campbell called 5 on Your Side and posted a flyer telling other residents to do the same.

“I cannot afford another bill. I am on a fixed income,” Campbell said.

Housing Authority spokeswoman Alison Hapgood told 5 on Your Side the whole thing was a "mistake" and the authority was already working to fix it. That same day, the authority sent residents a new letter saying the previous one was "sent ... in error."

“They began to knock on people's doors asking them if their water is on,” Campbell said.

For now, Campbell and others won't have to pay extra for water.

Stony Brook Apartments paid the water bills of those residents who had switched over their water service. The housing authority said that going forward as people's leases are up, they will not continue to include water service. Residents will then have to put water service in their names and pay their own water bills.

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  • NCMom1 Dec 19, 2008

    JAT
    There is nothing obvious about what she spends their money on based on a picture and a short news article. You have no clue what is going on in that womans life or anyone elses. You have no idea if she has been through job layoff, have medical bills etc. Many people live on a fixed income for various reasons that does not make them bad people or irresponsible.

    If other people in this country lived on a "fixed income" (i.e. within their means) maybe there would not be such an excessive amount of homes in foreclosure.

    Try using some common sense before you speak.

  • JAT Dec 18, 2008

    Of course you can't change a contract midstream - I never said you could. But it sounds like she didn't really do too much until the water was cut off and then went to WRAL. As I said, common sense tells you not to ignore such a letter and get resolution on it before the date it says your water will be cut off.

    It's great that WRAL helps some people, but alot of these cases could be resolved by Monica looking at the people and saying - WHY DIDN'T YOU THINK??? USE YOUR BRAIN!!! But, for some, it's easier to get someone to do what you should have done to begin with.

  • Lone Voice in the Wilderness Dec 18, 2008

    JAT, I think you are in the rather indefensible position to say that a landlord has a right to abrogate a contract. At the end of the day, which it is for me, that is the bottom line.

    Being responsible is a two way street. The tenant must be responsible to hold to her end of the contract; and the landlord should be responsible to hold to their end of the contract.

    You can't change horses in the middle of the stream, and you can't change terms of a contract unless the contract has a means to make that happen. Since the landlord is backpeddling, it looks like the lease did not.

  • JAT Dec 18, 2008

    If they don't lower the rent, they probably won't raise it either. I've never seen a lease that didn't increase each year upon renewal, so maybe they'll keep it the same and just make them pay for their water bill.

    If more places made tenants pay for things like their heat bill, too, they'd learn to turn the thermostat down like the rest of us do. I went in one once that was so hot I started to sweat. Of course, the thousands of roaches in the place enjoyed the heat, as they walked across the kitchen table.

  • JAT Dec 18, 2008

    NCMom - assuming she's wearing a wig, didn't that cost money, too? What's wrong w/her own ethnic hair???

    I don't care about the contract. I care that she's saying she can't afford another bill because she's on a fixed income and living in subsidized housing but she's obviously spending money on non-necessities.

  • Seagirl510 Dec 18, 2008

    I'm going to go with no, they will not lower the rents. Did you get a raise when gas prices went up?

  • justjean Dec 18, 2008

    I wonder if the apartment complex is going to lower the rent after the residents become responsible for their own water bill?

  • NCMom1 Dec 18, 2008

    JAT
    How can you imply that she spends her money at the salon when she is wearing a wig? Just because she demanded that a legal contract be abided by does not mean that she is irresponsible.

  • JAT Dec 18, 2008

    "to imply the resident is poor is distasteful & rude" - heck no, it's the dang truth. She's living in gov't subsidized housing owned by the housing authority. If she ain't poor, then she's lying to someone. Since when is poor a bad thing anyways? But if you're so poor you can't pay a water bill, then maybe you need to stay out of the salon. It's all about responsibility - pay the necessities first!!

  • Lone Voice in the Wilderness Dec 18, 2008

    A lease is a contract that binds parties to agreed upon terms. The landlord cannot up & change the conditions while the lease is in effect.

    To imply that the resident is poor is distasteful and rude. And if I were to get a letter stating that one party of the contract suddenly created a new clause that wasn't mutually agreed upon, I would definitely protest it.

    I had a similar experience many years ago when I leased my first car. I didn't agree to pay the county property tax, so when I got a letter saying I suddenly became responsible for the tax, I called the lessor. Yep, sure enough, it was a mistake. I was not responsible for the tax payment and didn't pay it for the entire length of the contract.

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