Roommates, when it comes to moving, we all know how stressful and expensive it can be. Unfortunately for one Detroit woman, her moving experience was something she never anticipated. According to the Metro Times, Nicole Geissinger, who was eager to start her medical career with a fellowship at Detroit Medical Center, received a $5,200 water bill from the city.
Nicole thought the city must have made a mistake and called the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD), only to be told that the bill was legit. Reports show DWSD said she inherited the previous homeowner’s unpaid water bill and would be charged a late fee of more than $250 a month if she didn’t pay it. Nicole couldn’t pay the bill without wiping out all of her savings. “I just moved in,” Nicole advised the Metro Times. “How can I be culpable for it?”
How could something like this happen? Well, under Michigan state law, new homeowners are responsible for the previous owner’s delinquent water bills, according to DWSD spokesman Bryan Peckinpaugh. “This is a dispute between the buyer and the previous owner,” Brian advised.
The confusion doesn’t end there. Metro Times also reports that invoices and financial transactions reviewed state that the previous owner paid what she was billed. They uncovered the previous owner’s water meter wasn’t relaying usage to the city, so the bill was a flat service fee.
When Nicole moved into the house, a DWSD employee came to her residence and checked the meter to determine how much water the former owner used, totaling $5,200. Typically an unpaid water balance is reflected on the home’s title so that a prospective buyer knows there is a delinquency. However, in this case, the real estate agent didn’t advise Nicole because when the agent checked the title, there was no balance. After all, DWSD didn’t know what it was.
Nicole says, “I am early, early in my career. I’m a new homeowner,” Geissinger says. “But I’m not in a position where I can’t pay the bill. There will be a lot of late fees, and it will hurt my credit rating. I’m stuck with a more than $5,000 water bill.”