Family on the hook for past homeowner’s late utility bills in Cape Coral

Reporter: Taylor Petras Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Credit: WINK News.

A family was slapped with an old water bill from the previous homeowners, and now, late fees are piling up.

A job transfer brought the Rodriguez family to Cape Coral in last year.

β€œWe fell in love with the house; we really did,” Marlen Rodriguez said.

They closed on their canal front property in July 2020 β€” no issues, no liens on the property. Then, seven months later, in February 2021, the family says they got a letter from the city saying a balance from the previous owner’s utility bill was transferred to their account and past due.

β€œOh, my gosh, this is a lot of money,” Rodriguez said. β€œA lot of money that we did not use at all.”

It was a balance of $260 from bills dated April to June of 2020. On top of that, the city is charging the family late fees.

β€œThey say we’re responsible for the bill,” Rodriguez said. β€œThere’s no way around it. We’re living in the address of whatever service they provide, and we’re responsible for that bill.”

β€œIt’s rare that this type of stuff happens,” said Jason Jakus, a broker and owner of NextHome Advisors.

Jakus says, while this doesn’t happen often, the simplest way to prevent it is for a buyer to ask for the seller’s latest utility bill before closing.

β€œA lot of buyers want to know how much is energy in Florida compared to where I’m moving from,” Jakus said. β€œSo you can ask them and make sure there’s not a balance on those utility bills.”

We reached out to the city to see what happens in these types of situations, but we have not received a response.

Rodriguez says she’ll keep paying for her utility services, but wants a solution for the past-due bills she did not create.

β€œI would like it resolved,” Rodriguez said. β€œI wouldn’t want anybody else going through.”

The City of Cape Coral had this response: “Title companies request payoffs for closings.Β  The payoffs provided by the City include balances due on utility bills.Β  In this case, a payoff was requested on this property on June 10 and provided by the City.”

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