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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. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  2. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  3. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

  4. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  5. This article proved very enlightening. Right ahead of sitting the LSAT for the first time, I felt a sense of relief that a score of 141 was admitted to an Indiana Law School and did well under unique circumstances. While my GPA is currently 3.91 I fear standardized testing and hope that I too will get a good enough grade for acceptance here at home. Thanks so much for this informative post.

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