Issue with Water/sewer with city


#1

Kinda complicated (for me) so bear with me please

  1. Years ago the Park had a well. When the city annexed the park we gave them operation of the well and they agreed to Maintain all water and sewer lines in the park as well as no charge for water usage at the Office and Pool. The city would install and maintain all meters. They initiated this not us.

  2. About five years ago, the city (Water Dept) began refusing to repair our water lines. When we inquired they told us that the original agreement was illegal and city personnel cannot make repairs of any kind on “Private Property”

  3. Fast forward to January 2019. Received certified letter from City stating they they were "no longer interested in honoring our agreement because the well is no longer being used. It further stated that the park will be Master Metered and we will be billed for the usage of water and sewer for our park (200 Lots) AND the park located directly behind us (32 Lots and not owned by us). In addition, we will be responsible for the sewage Lift station which services not only our Park but the small park behind us and a YMCA located next to us. The recommending we "reach out the the other park and the YMCA and work out an amicable agreement. It appears when the city connected us to the city system, they attached us to the other Park and YMCA to create a Loop System.

  4. In addition, they will be charging us a $19 per month "Sewer Debt Service Fee for my 200 lots, the other parks 32 lots. Totaling 52K annualling. This fee is to cover, billing,inspections, maintenance and repair of water and sewer systems for the city BUT not our Park. We will be required to bill and repair our lines and equipment.

  5. City officials which I knew cordially will vaguely talk about it. I have written the Mayor and City Manager asking for a meeting and received no response.

  6. I’ve hired an attorney and he did contact the city manager asking for a meeting. We were supposed to meet last week but the city canceled.

  7. We always had a good relationship with the City. Participated in city functions (Little Leage/Softball sponsorship, donations to the Police and Fire Dept etc)

  8. We have invested over a million dollars in this park over the last 4 years. Its actually a very nice Park. 195 homes, almost all Vinyl sided and well kept. 110 POH and the rest ROH.

The only response I get from The City Manager was the City was not authorized to enter into the agreement. The connections to the other properties was a natural progression at the time and we should be able to work with the other Park and YMCA to reach a solution.

a) things chance, I get that. Billing our residents is no problem. Maintaining the Lift Station will be costly but doable.

b) My residents will be paying $19 monthly to maintain some elses neighborhood pipes and Lift Station. That doesn’t seem fair to me.

c) I’m told I can charge up to 10 dollars per month but I feel my residents will be paying a billing/maintenance fee twice. One to the city which benefits everyone else and One for the Park system. Seems acceptable to me. I feel they should pay the same as anyone else in the city. As for as Rents, we are on the high end of the scale

Anyone experience anything like this with their City? Would love to hear some thoughts?


#2

A couple comments: a) make sure you have a very well qualified attorney for this; b) are other MHP’s in the area experiencing some of the “debt service” and other per pad charges they are pushing - or have you been singled out?; c) you should have the YMCA and other MHP contribute to the legal fees or let them know they risk having their service interrupted by the city since they are not represented parties.

The city probably realized they are losing a ton of money for all utilities and are looking for solutions - your park’s situation was low hanging fruit. I suspect that a good attorney could have you reach an agreement in the middle of what you had and what the city is telling you now.

Keep us posted. These threads are becoming more common and would like to track how certain states are (not) protecting property owners on these matters.


#3

Echo getting a good lawyer.

What exactly did the (original annexation) agreement say the City was responsible for, and is there any “outs” for the City in that agreement? In other words, is it crystal-clear the City is doing something the agreement says they have no right to do?

There are 2 issues I see.

(1) Did the City do something breaching the original agreement (and you have all the proof lined up, etc).

(2) Does the City’s defense have any legal weight? (i.e., they are claiming the agreement is void because it was not authorized. Is this a valid defense?) This is a question your lawyer should be able to find out a definitive answer to.

It could be that both of you are right – the City is breaching the contract and the contract is void anyway.

If the City’s claim that the contract is void holds up, what other rights/defenses do you have (you probably have some.) You need to get the right letter with all the legal doctrines and case citations in front of the City Attorney and then you’ll get some traction. Or, you will have to file a lawsuit or get a restraining order and then an injunction if you can.

Just as the City has you over a barrel, you have the YMCA and other MHP over a barrel. What is preventing you from denying them water and sewer service? Who would they sue if you were to curtail their service, and/or do they have easements and/or other rights to your metered City water and lift station pump to City sewer? This is their incentive to work with you and your legal team.


#4

This will boil down to complicated nitty gritty legal stuff. Based on my limited understanding, even if the original agreement was ‘invalid’, by the city operating under that agreement and maintaining the water system the city may have assumed a legal liability to continue doing so in the future.

I would interview multiple attorneys, and if a reasonable attorney thinks you have a good case, I’d immediately shoot off a polite but aggressive demand letter, and seriously consider following that up with a lawsuit if no response is received.

You’ve done the correct thing by trying to negotiate the with the city in a friendly manner, and it hasn’t gotten anywhere. If you have a legal case, I’d move on it quickly.

Please keep us updated, as others stated, this is an important topic and is becoming common.

(I bought a park where a somewhat similar situation had happened a few years before purchase. My attorney advised the previous owner fumbled the response, but if he had been more proactive likely would have succeeded)


#5

Thanks for the responses. To answer what I can
Per Agreement the “City agrees to the following”

  1. Continuously provide the Park with water and sewer services 2) Install water meters 3) accept individual accounts for water services 4) at sole cost, maintain, repair or replace the existing sewer and water lines. 5)Allow Park office and pool area water and sewer services free of cost. 6)Maintain and repair sewer lift station located on the property.

The city’s way out is a statement that says " This agreement expires when the city of #2$Z% releases its license or discontinue use of the well. Upon expiration of agreement City must notify owner by certified mail" We were notified in January. We feel they quit honoring most of the requirements around 5 years ago. They are the ones that connected the other MHP and YMCA to us.

Looks like our Attorney is very very aggressive and thinks we have a valid argument. Will keep you Posted ! Thanks again