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Owners responsible for delinquent sewer fees

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In a ruling that will affect property owners across the state, the Indiana Supreme Court today held property owners are ultimately responsible for the delinquent sewer bills of their tenants.

In Pinnacle Properties Development Group LLC v. City of Jeffersonville, Indiana, No. 10S01-0805-CV-302, the high court ruled a municipality may transfer a tenant's delinquent balance for sewer services to the property owner's account without notice to the owner because the owner is the one who will be held responsible for payment of sewer fees.

Pinnacle Properties Development Group, which owns rental properties in Jeffersonville, brought a suit against the city challenging its transfer of delinquent balances to the property owner. Pinnacle sought a declaratory judgment that Jeffersonville lacked legal authority to transfer delinquent balances. The trial court found the city complied with Indiana statute and local ordinances, and Indiana Code Section 36-9-23 allowed the city to bill Pinnacle.

The high court agreed with the city's argument that statutes and ordinances clearly show property owners are ultimately responsible for payment of the sewer service and that the city bills the tenants for the service, instead of the property owners, as a convenience to the owners.

The only relevant statutory provision in this case is I.C. Section 36-9-23-12.5, which provides for bill forwarding, and the Indiana Court of Appeals found that required a municipality to forward the final bill, but not the account balance, from one property to another, wrote Justice Theodore Boehm. Indiana Code 36-9-23 doesn't require municipalities to collect fees from tenants but from the property owner at the time the fees are incurred.

In some parts of the state, the legislature has prohibited or restricted transfer of delinquent fees or requires notification of the property owner of a tenant's delinquency, but Jeffersonville isn't included in those statutes and is governed by the general statute authorizing municipalities to provide sewer services, wrote the justice.

Pinnacle elects to have Jeffersonville bill tenants directly instead of the company. The Supreme Court acknowledged Jeffersonville's practice may inconvenience Pinnacle because by the time the company learns a tenant is delinquent, it could be too late to track them down and collect from them under the lease, wrote Justice Boehm.

But, Pinnacle could opt-out of the city billing program and bill tenants directly, examine the city's collection records each month to determine if tenants are current, include an average sewer charge in the rent amount, or collect additional money from its tenants to cover any delinquent fees, wrote the justice.

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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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