When Lois Lambert turns on her water, she sees dollar signs.
So she conserves. But it's the water usage outside of her apartment that's racking up her bill.
"What really hurts is when you see them watering the outside and the plants or doing something out there, and you think, "Boy, I'm paying for that," Lambert said. "It makes you want to go out and turn the water off."
Lambert and other tenants at the Oak Ridge Apartments in Largo say they were shocked this month when their water bills more than doubled.
"It was just a big shock to me to see what it was," resident Harvey Lambert said.
8 On Your Side received 10 calls from desperate residents, some with bills as high as $300 for a two-month period.
Residents say this man, apartment manager David Stevens, told them they now have to pay for water used in all common areas.
"There is nothing in any of the papers I signed and agreed to that states that I'm responsible for community water," resident Dean Wilson said.
Residents say they have no idea what formula is used to calculate their bills. some say their bills have more than doubled. Others say they've gone up even more than that."
So what are they paying for? Washing machines - even though they already pay $1 to use them. Watering plants. And sprinklers.
8 On Your Side checked out a tenant lease and found a line that clearly states tenants will pay only for water they use.
We tried to ask Stevens how he can change the policy mid-lease, but he directed us to the company that reads meters. Stevens then threatened to call police if we didn't leave.
So we left, but then called the Pinellas County Consumer Protection Agency and lawyers who said this doesn't sound legal.
While it's becoming more common for apartment complexes to charge for community water instead of sending individual bills, resident must be notified when signing their lease. The change cannot be made mid-lease.
A few hours after we left the complex, management at Oak Ridge had a change of heart - leaving a letter on residents' doors. The community charge for water will now be waived.
200 South Parker Street, Tampa, FL 33606
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