Disabled man losing water as city, landlord squabble

Disabled man losing water as city, landlord squabble
November 13
00:00 2014
(pictured above:  Randall Lindsay stands outside of his New Hope Manor apartment.)

A 54-year-old disabled man unable to pay his more than $3,000 water bill may soon be without service, while the city and his landlord point fingers at each other.

Lindsay lives in New Hope Manor Apartments.

Lindsay lives in New Hope Manor Apartments.

New Hope Manor Apartments resident Randall Lindsay received a water bill for $1,100.82 in August, according to his social worker, Debborah Lindsay, who is not related to her client. Debborah Lindsay receives Mr. Lindsay’s bills at the Department of Social Services, using some of his $721 monthly disability check to pay them. Mr. Lindsay has been disabled since suffering a stroke several years ago that has left him unable to use the right side of his body. He lives in the apartment with a caregiver and another resident.

Debborah Lindsay contacted the city and New Hope Manor Apartments officials after receiving the unusually high bill. She said Mr. Lindsay’s water bills had ranged from between $30 and $250 for the year that he has lived at New Hope Manor. The social worker said after the first exorbitant bill came, others followed, and she continued to reach out to the city and Mr. Lindsay’s landlord for answers. She said she contacted a city financial analyst; City Council member Vivian Burke; Community Business Development Director Richie Brooks; and city Housing Director Dan Kornelis.

“I’m trying to pull in anyone that I can think of to try and help,” she said. “We have used $300 of his money to put towards the bill, but that’s not enough.”

No one could explain why Mr. Lindsay’s bills were so high, she said. The bill now stands at $3,321.45 and is due Monday with a possibility of the service being cutoff on Tuesday.

“Even if we moved him (to another apartment), the bill would follow him if we don’t get it solved,” Debborah Lindsay said.

Nathan Tabor, co-owner of New Hope Manor, a complex off North Cleveland Avenue that offers one- and two -bedroom units, said that he does not know what is the cause of the excess water usage and has himself called the city on Mr. Lindsay’s behalf. He said the city had not acceded to his request for a water tech.



“We have called 10 times and the city keeps promising us that they will send a technician out. We have had our plumbers out, and there’s no damage in anyone’s apartment,” said Tabor, a former chair of the Forsyth County Republican Party.

(Tuesday evening, Tabor said a tech had visted the property earlier in the day.)
New Hope Manor did have a problem with a leak in past, but Tabor claims that was fixed immediately.
“We have a proven track record of fixing leaks on our property,” he said.

Tabor hinted that the meters the city uses to measure water usage may not be up to snuff.
“We tell them that there are meter caps missing,” he said. “I’ve been telling them that they’ve been missing for two years.”

But city officials say if there is a leak, it is on the property, not in the city-maintained pipes that provide water.



“In theory, if there’s a leak for a $3,000 water bill, the leak would be on the property side of the meter. The meter won’t turn if the water is on the city-side of the meter because water is the only thing that will make it turn,” said Anthony Baker, who handles risk management in the City Attorney’s Office.

Baker said the general policy for water leaks is that if a leak is found on the property, the city will share the cost of repairing the leak.

Baker said a leak that would cause such a large bill should not be hard to detect.
“A $3,000 water bill is outrageous. That is a huge leak. It is hard to believe, especially for an apartment, that’s a leak that would go undetected,” he said. “That’s a toilet running quite a bit for a long time.”

Baker contradicted Tabor’s claim. He said city workers have visited the property twice to check the meter box and look for leaks. He said the meter tested accurate and no leaks were found, which was baffling, Baker said, because a tenant could not use that much water. He said a leak could potentially be underground. Still, most underground leaks can be determined by soft spots in the ground, he said.
“In a case like this, where there is no apparent leak close to the box, if there is a high water bill, we tell the property owner that it appears the leak is on your side,” Baker said. “We will do what we can to help the owner by looking for leaks. If we don’t find anything without breaking concrete or digging up dirt, at that point it becomes the property owner’s responsibility to further investigate the leak.”

Tabor maintains the city is to blame for his tenant’s high bills.

“These meters are 25- to 30- years old and have a shelf life of 12 years,” he said. “They are required to keep these meters marked, and you can’t tell which meter goes where. How can you even tell which meter is which?”

Community Business Development Director Brooks said that someone from his office found that the toilet in Mr. Lindsay’s unit was not bolted to the floor, a code enforcement violation. That alone, however, could not cause such a large water bill. Brooks said the complex has been cited for other violations as well.

Tabor said that he has not been fined by Community Business Development for any violations, but has been asked to clear up cases dating back to 2010.

Debborah Lindsay was set to retire yesterday (Wednesday, Nov. 12.) She had hoped to have the matter cleared up for her client by then.

“I am not happy that this has been dragging on this long, and it’s just getting worse,” said Mrs. Lindsay, who has left concise notes for her supervisor and predecessor. “For the bill to double since August does not make any sense to me at all, and he hasn’t changed anything about the way he is living. It’s not him!”

Mr. Lindsay said he just wants the bill gone and the matter corrected.
“It’s awfully high. It’s too high,” he said. “I just want them to get the water bill down.”

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Chanel Davis

Chanel Davis

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