What is a new owner’s responsibility to pay a former owner’s water bill?

We are in the process of buying a short sale home. Everything was approved but the inspection from the VA cannot be done until the water is on. The house is winterized so we called the water department. They said the previous owners have a past due bill for $570 and will not turn it on until it is paid. Our realtor is telling us that we have to pay their bill? After talking to title company they overlooked that there is a lein on the title because they didn’t see it; I was told that they should not approve a loan without a clean title. The bank that almost owns the house, along with title company will not pay it. Our realtor will not pay it and she said she asked the previous owners to pay the bill but they do not have the money. So I have wasted 7 months on this house and need help. What do we do? Walk away or pay someone else’s water bill?

Asked on September 2, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Michigan


David L. Leon / David L. Leon, P.C.

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

If the short sale you're buying is more than $600 below market, pay the bill and move on. You're still getting a good deal. You could probably raise a stink, but not for less than the $600 bill. In order to make the best of a bad situation, ask if the bank, realtor, title company and anyone else who stands to gain from this transaction (including yourself) to split the $600 bill. The worst they can do is say no.

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