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

Published: April 7, 2021 4:34 PM EDT
Updated: April 9, 2021 7:50 AM EDT

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.

“We fell in love with the house; we really did,” Marlen Rodriguez said.

They closed on their canal front property in July 2020 — 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.

“Oh, my gosh, this is a lot of money,” Rodriguez said. “A 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.

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

“It’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.

“A lot of buyers want to know how much is energy in Florida compared to where I’m moving from,” Jakus said. “So 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.

“I would like it resolved,” Rodriguez said. “I wouldn’t want anybody else going through.”

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