Better Call Behnken: Hillsborough woman receives bill for other tenants’ water after landlord dies

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Imagine being told you have to pay for someone else’s water usage or see your own water turned off.

That’s the situation Lindsey Fernandez found herself in. She received an unexpected bill for $524.13 and was told by Hillsborough County Utilities that she had until Friday, June 16 to pay the amount.

Making this even worse, $413.29 is for water used by tenants in other apartments owned by her landlord.

“I’m kind of stuck here because I have family, and I’m like, ‘What’s going on?'” Fernandez said.

It all started when her landlord, Daniel Holst Sr., passed away last fall. Fernandez had paid her water bill to the landlord each month. She says she called the water department and asked for her own bill.

First, she explains, she had to pay a past-due amount on another unit. She did that and then everything was normal. Until the big bill showed up.

At a loss for what to do, she called 8 On Your Side. We called the county and discovered the landlord’s four apartments had one bill. The past due amount is for other units and the county had no idea that the landlord wasn’t paying because he passed away, a county spokeswoman said.

Within hours, county workers changed their minds, letting Fernandez off the hook. She’ll only be charged for water her family uses.

In the meantime, the county will go through the court system to try to collect past due water bills from the landlord’s estate. In addition, the lender on the property has filed for foreclosure. For now, tenants have no landlord and Fernandez says she’s saving her rent money, waiting until she has someone to pay.

As for her water bill, that part of her finances will go back to normal.

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