South Florida

Renters in Broward Upset About Higher Water Bills

Tenants asked NBC 6 Responds if they can fight the landlord’s increase

Renters in Weston called NBC 6 Responds after they see a dramatic increase in their water bills. Tenants said they can’t afford the landlord’s increase.

Rent can be tough to afford in South Florida, so when a landlord increased renters’ water bills in Weston, they called NBC 6 Responds to see if they could do anything about it. Their lease agreement outlines how much these renters could expect to pay for water each month so when that amount increased — in some cases almost doubled — they complained to the apartment building’s management.

“I am paying more for water than electricity,” said renter Alejandra Valdivieso. She and other renters say they can’t afford the higher bills much longer.

“I don’t want to leave but if this continues they are making us leave,” Kathy Martinez said.

The neighbors said their landlord used to charge them a flat rate ranging from 45 to 65 dollars a month based on the number of bedrooms in their apartment. But they said a new administration changed the billing system.

Renters said they called NBC 6 Responds after their complaints didn’t change anything. NBC 6 Responds asked real estate attorney Henry Marines to look at the lease and tell us if the property owner could legally raise the water bills.

“They’re well within their rights of what they’ve done,” Marines said.

He said an addendum on the lease allows the landlord to change the way it charges for a public service as long as 30 days written notice is given. In this case, it was. Residents were told they would be billed according to the number of people living in each apartment. Marines said other than voice their opposition there’s not much these neighbors can do.

“With most rental leases there isn’t much room to maneuver to negotiate once you enter into those leases. You have to live by the terms or they can evict you,” Marines said.

The renters also showed us what they call examples of water being wasted, insisting they shouldn’t be responsible for what’s used in common areas.

But Marines says that too is not unusual.

“So it’s actually common that in a condominium you would pay for the water in a common area,” Marines said.

After we contacted management at the apartment complex, the residents received a letter informing them that “…a water main leak at the property created elevated water charges…management is going to credit your…water bill accordingly.”

Management also said they will set a cap on water bills.

The neighbors told us the changes did lead to a drop in their most recent water bill — although some said it’s not enough to keep them from searching for new homes.

Marines told NBC 6 Responds sometimes landlords will agree to make changes to a standard lease but you need to ask for modifications before signing — and make sure you get those changes in writing.

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