TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – As a growing number of homeowners in Holiday’s Forest Hills neighborhood report utility company demand letters, some are discovering even worse news.

The private company, Forest Hills Utilities, Inc., is sending letters to homeowners it says has past due amounts for trash and street light services and asking them to pay immediately or face liens against their properties.

But Better Call Behnken found many of the homeowners already have liens filed against their properties by the utility company, public records show.

One of those homeowners, when reached by Investigator Shannon Behnken, said he recently received a letter saying he owes $1,500, even though he says he doesn’t receive bills and actually pays another company to pick up his trash.

Other Forest Hills residents are complaining of these out-of-the-blue bills, too. The BBB gives Forest Hills an F rating for not responding to complaints.

Doris Gentzler tells turned to Better Call Behnken, saying her trash is picked up, but she hasn’t received a bill in 19 years so she assumed trash service was included in county taxes.

Investigator Shannon Behnken reached out to Forest Hills Utilities, Inc. and was told by Tammy Gardner, accounts receivable, that the company bills quarterly and that every homeowner receives these bills. The ones complaining, she said, must have ignored bills.

Gardner explained that during the pandemic, the company held off on late notices and lien letters but is now resuming that practice, starting with the highest unpaid amounts.

Better Call Behnken did some digging and discovered Forest Hills bills residents and then contracts out services.

Public records show that’s because when the developer, Robert Dreher, developed the community he recorded deed restrictions that give Forest Hills Utilities Inc. the exclusive rights to utilities like trash and light service.

The owner of the utility was Mr. Dreher himself, until he passed away in 2016. The utility remains managed by family members. When reached by phone, Dolly Koulias, the daughter of Mr. Dreher, said she was only recently involved in the company.

State records list her as the vice president, but said her father had listed her, but she wasn’t involved.