A mistake by Miami-Dade County utility officials has let to sky-high water bills this month for many property owners in the South Florida city of Opa-locka.
The Miami Herald reports that some residents have had their water shut off because owners haven’t paid the bills.
At one 112-unit apartment complex, monthly water bills went from around $2,000 combined in November and December to $135,000 between two buildings in January.
On Friday, the apartment complex’s owners filed a lawsuit against the city and county, saying officials had threatened to turn off their water if they didn’t pay the massive bill, “endangering the health and safety of hundreds of residents.”
Officials say the apartment complex has have several weeks before their water will be shut off. She said customers should contact the county to work out payment plans and aren’t necessarily expected to pay the entire bills all at once.
A long history of malfeasance in the city’s water system has bred mistrust among residents and property owners. In 2016, Opa-locka relinquished control of the billing system amid reports of rampant corruption and overcharging, including employees shaking down residents for cash and bills being waived for politically connected customers. Seven people have since pleaded guilty in a bribery scheme uncovered by the FBI.
The city’s water accounts were transferred to the county over a two-year period and faulty meters were replaced. Under a contract between them, Opa-locka is paying off millions of dollars in debt for water it bought from the county.