Should Tenants Be Punished For Landlord's Inability To Pay Water Bill?

The residents of a South Florida apartment complex could be on the street soon — not because they failed to pay their rent or utility bills, but because their landlord has allegedly run up a $14,000 water and sewer tab and won’t pay up.

This is just the latest story of tenants being royally screwed through absolutely no action of their own, and in each case we’ve covered, authorities have turned to punishing renters rather than going directly after the landlord.

“We can’t let the landlord get away without paying bills,” the mayor of Hallandale Beach, FL, tells Miami’s CBS4. She says the city has no choice and that it has already extended the time for the landlord to pay up.

But this doesn’t explain why the city has to evict the people who don’t owe any money.

Surely, the city could place a tax lien on the property, or perhaps a lien against tenants’ rent.

After all, these are people who want to pay their rent, so why not use that money to pay down the water bill, rather than have to bring in the Red Cross to assist and house displaced tenants?

“I feel like they just don’t care about us,” one to-be-evicted tenant tells CBS4. “Just the fear of not knowing where I’m going to lay my head next. No water to take a shower with. It’s really overwhelming.”

We’ve written to various city officials in Hallandale Beach to see if we can get a more detailed response as to why they would choose to evict the tenants rather than come up with a creative solution to the problem. If anyone responds, we’ll let you know what they have to say.

UPDATE: I’ve had a brief phone discussion with the mayor of Hallandale Beach, who says the city is looking to get all of the residents into proper housing before the water gets turned off. She also explains that the city’s ability to place a lien against this particular property is limited. The mayor has promised to put Consumerist in touch with the city’s attorney, who can explain the legal issues surrounding this situation.

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