August 18, 2017 06:33 PM
FAIRPORT -- Most of us pay $30 to $40 per quarter for our water but a Fairport woman who purchased a new home recently just got walloped with a $4,000 water bill and she hadn't even used a drop yet.
Selma Ramusovic just graduated from the University of Buffalo and, at 22 years old, she landed a great job and purchased her first home. "I always set goals for myself. I started working at the age of 16, I was saving all the money I could," she says.
After looking at a number of homes she decided to buy a foreclosure in Fairport. "Basically, I relied on my attorney to make sure everything was clear and free of any liens, which it was," she recalls.
There were no liens on the property and an inspector said it met the requirements for the rehab loan she had applied for. The water, Selma knew, had been turned off a year prior but she didn't think too much of it.
"The old meter was just hanging on the floor right there," Selma recalls of the first time she noticed it.
After closing, the Monroe County Water Authority came to turn the water back on and that's when she knew there might be a big problem. "All the numbers that he read, it was like 1.3 million gallons of water," she says.
Executive Director Nick Noce tells News10NBC that the last time the Authority got a meter reading inside the home was July 2015 right before it was foreclosed upon. After that, the bank would not allow them inside so, the water was cut in July 2016. There was no final meter reading conducted when the bank and Selma closed on the sale in May of this year.
That means, 1.3 million gallons of water would have had to have passed through the meter in the one-year time period before the water was cut. Most residential customers don't use that much water in ten years. Selma, her contractor and her loan company have no idea where the H2O went. "There was no signs of water damage, no flooding, nothing like that," she says.
The Authority says water does not have to create damage to be used; it nearly always goes down the drain. It has retained the meter and will test it to ensure accuracy but sadly, it is not uncommon when a home is repossessed that the person losing the house does things like turn on the water throughout the house knowing it will be months until it is discovered.
There could also have been leaks, an outside hose bib could have been left on, the internal faucets could have been left running, or a water-driven sump could have been in place. Unfortunately, according to the Authority, there is no way of knowing exactly how the water was used or even if it was intentional on the part of the previous owner.
"All of us at the Monroe County Water Authority are very sorry for what is happening to this family. This is really an issue between the bank and the property owners, not MCWA. Typically, between a realtor and attorney, this matter should have been discovered prior to closing on the property and dealt with between the parties," Noce says.
While there are limits to what the Authority can do, after News10NBC called on Selma's behalf, Noce lowered the bill to $1,281 and offered her a long-term interest-free payment plan on the remaining balance.
He says it's also important to stress the importance of buyers, realtors, and attorneys contacting all utilities when purchasing properties. MCWA offers appointments to obtain final meter reads.
Selma may also have grounds to file suit against her realtor and attorney. She is exploring that option.
Created: August 18, 2017 06:33 PM
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