Received old sidewalk replacement bill

17 Replies

Hi BP!

This is going to be my first question in the forums after buying my first property on July of this year. I bought a triplex, and while I'm extremely happy to be living rent free, the property needs a lot of maintenance so I'm learning the hard way how to become a landlord lol.

However, my question is in reference to a bill that I received today. I live in Beaver, PA and the city sent a reminder of a bill that was invoiced and sent to the old owner on February, 2019. They sent the bill directly to the old owner’s address. 

As you can imagine, Ihad no idea of this bill. The owner never disclosed this bill during closing. The deadline for payment is February, 2020 so a lien hasn't been placed on the property - that's why it wasn't picked up during title search.

So, BP community, I don’t know what to do. I don’t know if there’s something that I can legally do to get the owner to pay the bill. The amount is $2,830.84, so I’m reluctant to pay it without fighting it a little. 

Of course, I haven’t talk to the old owner yet. I want to know if what my options are before I approach him. I have his address. He lives nearby - unless he changed his address which I doubt. I could either pay a visit or send a letter.

What do you recommend? Is there something I can do? Or am I stuck with the bill?

Thank you! 

You can not ignore the City. It is a lien against the property not the owner and you own the property. Has nothing to do when the repair was done. I would pay it ASAP.

Unless you can prove the prior owner received the bill and intentionally failed to disclose it, there is not much you can do. It is such a small amount, that it is not worth your time to mess with it - just pay it and move on

@Jeff Willis Hi Jeff. Thank you for your advice. Yes, I intend on paying. There's not yet a lien on the house, but they will put one after February 2020, so I definitely will pay it before then. My question was more towards whether there's something I can do to make the previous owner pay for it or reimburse me for it. I know there are worst situations, but 2,800 is not small for me, at least not yet.

In reference to what you said about proving that they received the bill, I forgot to mention that the city included in their letter a copy of the letter they sent to the previous owners. The letter was dated February 14th, 2019 and it was sent in their name and to their address. Do you think there’s something I could do   with that? 

Is it an assessment against the house? If so was it listed on the mls? In Vegas those kind of assessments are easy to see and become the buyers responsibility. (Under property taxes it says assessment amount and taxes with and without it.)

If it is, I’d pry say eat it as it was disclosed and you agreed to it. If it wasn’t as a non-lawyer it feels like the seller should pay it because it was addressed to them during their ownership. BUT, on the other hand, you will be the one enjoying the new sidewalk. Maybe bring it up and just ask for some satisfaction, some kind of win-win. Split it? You’ve always got small claims court if it will make you feel better win or lose that at least it was “fair” for a very small cost. GL and let us know the results. 

@Silvana Lavado

Talk to a local real estate lawyer. This guy should have disclosed the bill, obviously. He didn't because he's a liar and a crook, yes, it's obvious. But whatever you do, don't take your direction for something like this from the Bigger Pockets forums without discussing it with real legal counsel. Good luck, Silvana.

@Bill Brandt  What I gather from the letter is that apparently, the gas company had to fix some issues with their lines which involved breaking down some of the curbs and sidewalks. The gas company and the city hired a subcontractor to deal with the sidewalk curb. This subcontractor billed the city and while most of it was paid by the gas company, there was a fraction of the bill that was supposed to be paid by the owners of that block. The bill was split among a few houses and that's how the the bill for $2,800 happened. This was all done in 2018 and the bill was sent on February 2019. I don't believe it was listed on the mls, but I will check with my realtor. Thank you for your advice. I will look into small claims courts. Hopefully, there's something I can do. 


 

Originally posted by @Bill Brandt :

Is it an assessment against the house? If so was it listed on the mls? In Vegas those kind of assessments are easy to see and become the buyers responsibility. (Under property taxes it says assessment amount and taxes with and without it.)

If it is, I’d pry say eat it as it was disclosed and you agreed to it. If it wasn’t as a non-lawyer it feels like the seller should pay it because it was addressed to them during their ownership. BUT, on the other hand, you will be the one enjoying the new sidewalk. Maybe bring it up and just ask for some satisfaction, some kind of win-win. Split it? You’ve always got small claims court if it will make you feel better win or lose that at least it was “fair” for a very small cost. GL and let us know the results. 

 Can you help a newbie investor understand how you'd spot a problem like this in advance? You mention that it's easy to see - that it's under property taxes? How do you see that?


Bottom right corner assessment y/n and then Sid/lid y/n (a charge in my area when building new houses to cover streets/lights/gates/other public areas. These can easily be over $10k)

Of course the previous owner should pay this bill!  He knew it was his  bill.  He -or she - knew they should have paid it.  Just because it wasn't spotted prior to the sale does not get them out of being responsible for a bill sent to them.

So, the cheapest option is small claims court.  To sue in small claims court, you must first ask the person you are going to sue for the money.  Then, you can sue them.

Actually, for sidewalk repairs this is a cheap bill, so that's good.  

I've sued huge companies using small claims court.  It's a great way to get even a large corporation to deal with you fairly.  So, this is what I'd do:

Write a letter to the previous owner demanding they pay the bill by a deadline and give you proof of payment with the promise to sue if they don't.

You could also just go ahead and pay it and then send them a demand letter to reimburse you with the promise to sue if they don't.  

Then, if they don't pay, you file suit in small claims court.  

The beauty of small claims court is nobody can bring a lawyer in most states.  Judges are pretty good at sussing out BS from the truth.

But, to heck with the advice saying you should just pay the bill without a fight!  I literally sued AARP a couple years ago and got them to settle out of court days before our court date by simply filing suit in small claims court.  It forces most people and even large corporations to settle.  

In this case, especially, this isn't a bill worth paying a lawyer for - and I'm talking about the prior owner not wanting to pay for a lawyer to fight this.  If he/she can't afford a judgment, they'll pay up.

That is what title insurance is for. To settle all financial debts from a previous ownership. This is just an idea, since I've never made a claim before. Next, this is the responsibility of the previous owner, for sure. So a small lawsuit could be in order. Consult your local attorney for better advice.

Originally posted by @Bill Brandt :


Bottom right corner assessment y/n and then Sid/lid y/n (a charge in my area when building new houses to cover streets/lights/gates/other public areas. These can easily be over $10k)

 Thanks for the heads up, Bill.  I sincerely appreciate it!