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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Here's an odd ball question that I just wanted to pose to a large and diverse group of people.

My brother bought an old (1930s or so) house 4 years ago and has finally gotten around to remodeling the kitchen. The sewer line was backing up so the city was called. Well...turns out that the house is still on septic! My brother has been paying sewer fees for 4 years and I'm sure the previous owner was too. The city has revoked his building permits for the plumbing portion of the remodel until he taps into the city sewer...to the tune of $4,000. Or replace the septic system (too old and now not working properly) for even more money.

At first, I thought the city should just do the whole job for free. But that's not really fair. But I still think that they should deduct all of the fees that they have charged my brother over the past 4 years from the installation cost. It might only be $500 or so (he is still digging up old bills) but it's something.

On the other hand, some folks have said that it's his fault for not knowing that it was on septic and his responsibility for fixing it no matter what he has paid in the past. He had an inspector to the house when he bought it and the real estate agent didn't disclose that. It's not on any records of the house either. Of course, my rotted sewer line was not on any records either and I had to pay the full amount to have that fixed! But this just seems different since he's been paying for something he has not actually been using...plus when the city adds sewer to an existing neighborhood, they drastically reduce the hook up fee to encourage people to use it (guess the owner at that time just didn't go for it...). But they are charging full price to my brother. Hmmm.

So...what's fair for the city to do?
 

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The owner who owned the house when the city put in the sewer had the option of hooking up or not evidently.It is up to all subsequent owners to cover their own butts.Your brother will probably have to pay the whole cost.It never hurts to try to negotiate tho.
 

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I question getting legal advice from the internet. That is what you need, legal advice. He should speak to a lawyer. The seller may bear part of this responsibility, if it was not disclosed properly. Just one opinion. Good Luck!

Russ
 

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I question getting legal advice from the internet. That is what you need, legal advice. He should speak to a lawyer. The seller may bear part of this responsibility, if it was not disclosed properly. Just one opinion. Good Luck!

Russ
I agree that the next thing that should happen is to get a lawyer.
 

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It may some what depend on the conditions and terms were when the city ran the sewer line and the conditions of the hook up,

I think that the following is very close to the statement my daughter made about there situation, (they live in a small but growing town), they could hook up for no fee when the city brings the new sewer line through, but regardless the new utility bills will include the sewer fee, even if they do not choose to hook up (I think they are currently being charged for sewer service even tho there line has not been run yet),
and if they do not hook up in a given grace period, a sewer connection fee will be charge in the future.

So that may be the way it was, when the sewer went in at your location, the whole intent was to get the customer to hook up to the sewer line and even if they choose not to they were going to help pay for the new line.
 

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I agree that the next thing that should happen is to get a lawyer.
Other than to negotiate on his behalf, what would you like the lawyer to do? This is a $4,000 problem. If you get a lawyer involved it will become a $6,000 problem real fast. Besides, the problem needs to be fixed NOW.

I suppose he could try to get some satisfaction from the seller for misrepresenting the property, but that's going to be a difficult case to make since the seller evidently didn't know about the problem either. Besides, for the amount involved it's probably a small claims matter, so a lawyer couldn't appear for him anyway. If he can tell the story to a lawyer, he can tell it to a small claims judge just as well.

I suspect that the sewer fees are a dead issue. He probably lives in a sewage disposal district, so fees have to be paid regardless of use.
 

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City should credit him with fees he has already paid...The city should not require him to look them up, as they will have a record of these.
 

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Look at the answers on this post and you will see why I said consult a lawyer. It may be that the lawyer will tell them to pay what the city said and leave it at that. You can't give legal information from where you live to somebody else that may be under diferent rules.
 

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Have him check the listing and/or closing papers. If the listing specifies a septic system, he has very few options. As the saying goes, "let the buyer beware." If the papers state there are sanitary sewers with no mention of a septic, then it may behoove him to seek a consult with a legal professional.

The town my folks live in ran sewers a few years back. My folks had the option of connection, at their own expense, or continuing to use their septic. Either way, their tax bill would include a charge for the sewers. This is a normal practice...as example, your tax bill probably includes a fee for street lights even if there are none on your street. My folks were also told upfront that the town would not issue any new permits for septic systems either new or for major repairs. Sounds like a similiar situation. IMHO, the seller / realtor should have disclosed this information. Be that as it may, my opinion means little in relation to what is legal in this case.
 

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When I over paid the water bill, I got a refund. That seems fair!

It is true, though, that some people on septic are required to pay the sewer fee. It all depends on the community's laws!
 

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I love South Dakota
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I also know of a situation where the city came through and people could choose to not hook up, but ALL were told they would be charged the monthly fee regardless.

Sort of like having to pay for community services through your property taxes - does not matter if you actually use any of them or not.

Cathy
 

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This may be a long shot, but I know the following situation is quite common. Often when a city comes thru with sewer, the home's sewage line is hooked to the sewer at the septic tank. In other words, the septic tank is still in line and the wastewater coming out of the tank goes to the city sewer. I guess what I'm saying is make sure this is not the situation at your brother's home.
 

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I don't think he's entitled to a refund. If I was paying for cable internet service but never hooked it up to my computer, instead choosing to use dialup as I always have, would I be entitled to a refund? No. So I don't see his lack of knowledge of the situation as warranting a refund. If anything he should be going after the seller for not disclosing the situation. Of course it's possible the seller didn't know either, if it was a forclosure, or estate, or surviving spouse situation.
 

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How did this pass inspection when he purchased it 4 years ago? Around here, water and drainage systems are inspected when property changes hands.

His neighbors might be in the same situation, too. What a can of worms!
 

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I have a similar situation at hand - a few years back, shortly after I purchased our current home, the city added sewer lines and required mandatory compliance to hook up. If I recall it correctly - you could hook up at a reduced fee when they were coming through your street, or you could do it at a considerably larger fee at your own convenience. It required a deposit to reserve and get the reduced hook-up, which I did.

They started working and came up on our street and stopped directly as they got to the house in front of us [we are behind a property fronting the road, with a 200"+ long easement driveway]. I'm not sure if they included the neighbors in the front, but we never got hooked up. When I questioned the water dept. they had no clue why not, but assured us that they would pick us up in "Phase 2" of their project. Phase 2 has come and gone [nowhere near our property] and when I inquired about us getting added into [not that I care about it one way or the other] - they admitted that they forgot us the second time around as well, and that now the expense would be prohibitive to add us to the sewer system [DUH!].

To make a long story short - I have a written statement that discloses that they forgot to add us to Phase 1 when they came through, and that I may remain on my sewer system [now grandfathered in] and that will transfer to any new owner if I should decide to sell this house.They initially tried to weasle out of that one, but I had my canceled check for the deposit and insisted. They also do no longer try to hit me up for the sewage fees.

My suggestion - check with the previous owner and go from there. An attorney may be needed to deal with the issue at hand, if the previous owner is at fault for non-disclosure etc. You may be able to negotiate something with the city, if he has had a similar agreement with them...
 

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But I still think that they should deduct all of the fees that they have charged my brother over the past 4 years from the installation cost. It might only be $500 or so (he is still digging up old bills) but it's something.

Seems the fairest thing to me. Doesn't mean they'll BE fair, but nothing lost by asking.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Thanks for all the advice folks!

I guess I don't see the need for a lawyer here. Like Nevada said, it could end up costing MORE if you get one involved! My brother is meeting with the city tomorrow to see what they can do.

I told him about all the responses that said you still have to pay sewer fees even if you aren't hooked up. That actually makes sense. I pay curb fees in my neighborhood and the city never put any in. The neighborhood complained when it first became part of the city and the city wouldn't budge but they would install curbs - but no one wanted them. So I guess it's standard practice...

Cabin Fever - that's the way my septic-turned-city-sewer works so it was the first thing I said to him. But there is no tap from the city line at all!

Oh, and about the previous owner. It would be nice to find out the real story, but it'll never happen. The previous owner died and her ELEVEN heirs all fought over the estate. My brother had to get all 11 of them to sign the house over. One would change their mind and rip up the papers only to have the process start over a few weeks later. I think it took him almost 6 months to actually get all the paper work. Not sure how the inspector missed it either. Such is life though - my inspector missed my rotten sewer lines too.

Again, thanks for the replies. He should just be happy to get working drainage again! Hopefully, they will give him some kind of discount (the city has to do the work I think and not a private plumber, but that's something to look in to) and he can get back on track to remodeling!
 
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