Sarasota County man forced to pay 20-year-old water bill that wasn’t even his

Better Call Behnken

OSPREY, Fla. (WFLA) – Bill Dorwarth was stunned and confused when he showed up at the closing table to sell his Osprey home.

There was a past due charge of $504 to Sarasota County Public Works. Dorwarth was certain the charge wasn’t correct, but there no further information, and if he didn’t pay it, he says, he couldn’t finish the home closing that day.

So, he paid and then followed up later with the county. He says he learned the county is now going back 20 years in search of past due utility bills. When he bought the home four years ago, the policy was to go back five years.

“This isn’t a judgment against me,” Dorwarth said. “It’s not even really a judgment against my property. This is something that they failed to collect up to 20 years ago.”

Dorwarth doesn’t think the policy is right, especially when he had a clear title four years ago. He said the two charges are from the first and second owner. He is the fifth owner of the home.

A spokesman for Sarasota County Government tells Consumer Investigator Shannon Behnken that the county has decided to give Dorwarth a refund because he did have a clear title when he purchased the home.

The county does, however, now go back 20 years to collect past-due utility charges, he said, instead of the previous five years. That means anyone buying a home in the county could be forced to pay the old bills.

Dorwarth doesn’t think the policy is fair.

“I’m not saying they’re collecting $504 off of everybody, they are collecting small amounts, but when you’re doing hundreds of closings in Sarasota and are picking up anywhere from $10 to whatever, I totally think this is their way to get additional funds, misleading people that are selling their homes that haven’t owned them for 20+ years,” he said.

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