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  • A Warning About WSSC to Landlords of Empty Properties
    09/30/2009 3:01PM

    As many of you know, I manage and am trying to sell an empty commercial property in Oxon Hill. Recently I realized I had not received a water bill for the property in some time. So I called WSSC (The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission) to ask about why I hadn't received a bill. I figured this was due to some clerical error. 

    After waiting on hold for ages, I spoke to the nice rep and to my shock and horror he told me:

    ANOTHER PARTY TOOK OVER THE BILL!

    I WAS NEVER NOTIFIED!

    AND OF COURSE THEY HADN'T PAID IT!

    AND THE ACCOUNT WAS IN DANGER OF BEING TURNED OFF!

    OH S#$T!

    Me: "How can it have been transfered! I never transferred the account!!"

    The WSSC Phone Rep: "Sorry Sir, that's not how it works"

    Me: "How could it have been transferred if never signed an authorization to allow the transfer?!? I never signed /ANYTHING/! What the !@$#%! is going on?!?"

    The WSSC Phone Rep: "I'm sorry Sir, It's public record. If someone calls to take over an account we honor the request."

    Me: "What the $@#!$!@# do you mean? That's insane. Of course I have to authorize the transfer!"

    The WSS Phone Rep: "I'm sorry sir, that's not the way it works. We don't know you or anyone. We just accept the calls."

    Me: "So you're trying to tell me that I can take over the bill of anyone's house and then not pay the bill so their water gets shut off???"

    The WSSC Phone Rep: "We do send a notice to the property, Sir."

    Me: "What if it's an empty property?!? There's no mail delivery at the property. It's empty. The company address is here. The billing address is here. I should have been notified of the change of account /HERE/."

    The WSSC Phone Rep: "I'm sorry Sir, that's not how it works. We don't send a notice to the billing address. Only to the property."

    Me: "Can we transfer the account back to me?"

    The WSSC Phone Rep: "Yes, sir."

    Me: "Is the water in danger of being shut off"

    The WSSC Rep: "Yes Sir, but we can take care of that and give you some time to pay the account".

    Me: "If someone changes the account again, can I at least get notified?"

     The WSSC Phone Rep: "I'm sorry Sir. That's not how it works. There's no way we will notify you. You are just going to have to notice that you didn't get a bill and call us back".

    This is nuts.

    Amazing. I very rarely get angry but this is just nuts. So if there's a property, like the one next door to my house here which was foreclosed on a couple of weeks ago and is now empty, you could call up WSSC, change the holder of the account giving them only an address and a phone number and then not pay the bill. After some time they shut off the water. (which luckily in my case did not happen).

    What happens if there's a fire?

    With all the empty and/or foreclosed properties around these days, this seems like a serious vulnerability in ths sytem. The rep kept saying that the water bill is public and that they don't have any control over this. Anyone can just call and they have to take them at their word.

    It seems to me that if you are the holder of the water account, then it should not be transferrable without your /WRITTEN/ consent. This is like saying that someone can come along and take over your mortgage and not pay it allowing you to get foreclosed.

    I don't think it works this way with the power company. I certainly hope not. Imagine the damage you could do.

    Now I should have noticed that I had not received a water bill in some time. I missed two cycles. But it's a 3 month billing cycle and with the literally dozens of bills I pay every month for two properties and two businesses, things like this can easily fall through the crack.

    So if you're stuck with an empty property you're trying to unload make sure you notice whether or not you're getting a water bill. This is one of the craziest things I've come across and it seems to break every notion of a contractual obligation.

    I must be misunderstanding something. This simply can't work this way.

  • Comment By:
    647
    09/30/2009 9:20PM
    That is one of the most ridiculous thing that I have ever heard of. I can't believe that there hasn't been some sort of legislative action to make them change that policy.
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