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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 gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  2. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  3. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

  4. Here's an idea...how about we MORE heavily regulate the law schools to reduce the surplus of graduates, driving starting salaries up for those new grads, so that we can all pay our insane amount of student loans off in a reasonable amount of time and then be able to afford to do pro bono & low-fee work? I've got friends in other industries, radiology for example, and their schools accept a very limited number of students so there will never be a glut of new grads and everyone's pay stays high. For example, my radiologist friend's school accepted just six new students per year.

  5. I totally agree with John Smith.

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