Families are living without running water; one landlord is urging city to turn the water back on.

THE TIMES: JAMIE VALDEZ - Some Beaverton residents have been living without running water for more than a month. One landlord is urging the city to turn the water on. Kelly Freed bought two duplexes as a rental properties on Southwest Allen Boulevard about two years ago and quickly became embroiled in a mess that has left tenants without water and Freed without rental income.

As reported by The Valley Times on Nov. 30, four duplexes are owned by three different property owners at the Allen location, where the City of Beaverton shut off water service on Nov. 1. That has left residents, including children, without water for more than a month.

"Over the past 11 years, the property owners have had a long-standing history of failing to make utility payments on a regular basis. The unpaid amount past due to the city is more than $15,000," said Holly Thompson, public involvement and communications manager for the Office of the Mayor of Beaverton.

The situation is further complicated, Thompson said, because at some point the property, which is one legal lot, was divided into four individual tax lots. This led to the previous property owner selling off properties, resulting in three different owners of the four tax lots. When the tax lots were created, the property owner did not apply to legally divide the lots for land-use purposes and, as a result, the four properties continue to share one water line and one sewer line.

"These tenants have children and cannot find suitable housing at the rate of approximately $800 per month," Freed said. "The city has made no attempt to offer a solution that is a reasonable, time-realistic and accommodating to the vulnerable families they are victimizing for a problem the city created, they have ignored for years and they have the power and authority to resolve."

The City of Beaverton stated that "based on the ongoing failure of the property owners to bring the properties into legal compliance with city code, the ongoing failure to pay utility bills, and concern over the maintenance of property conditions affecting tenants, the city made the difficult decision to end utility service to the properties."

Thompson added: "For more than a decade, the city has communicated with various property owners about the need to establish separate utility lines to the properties consistent with city code."

When Freed purchased her duplex she was billed for service to all units, not just the two that she owned, she said. 

"I made an initial payment of $2,485.46 on Aug. 4, 2016," Freed said. "This payment was what was due from the previous owner from the date he filed bankruptcy. The city originally tried to bill me $17,000, but eventually agreed that the previous water bill could not be collected as it was discharged in the bankruptcy.  I assume that is where they are coming up with the erroneous balance of $15,000."

At this point, the city is not allowing Freed to make any payments on the water bill, because she said the city is no longer recognizing her as an owner.

Freed is not charging the current tenants any rent. "It is unconscionable that the city will not turn the water on," Freed said. "I feel so badly for the tenants. They have nowhere else to go and I'm not going to charge them for rent when they don't have any running water."

Freed said she feels backed into a corner by the city.

"I paid the water bill incurred from the dismissal of the former owner's bankruptcy, which was over $2,000, and have continued to pay for all the units, including the ones I don't own, amounting to over $10,000," Freed said. "As of October, a new owner took possession of one of my units that has the single water meter attached. I am in litigation disputing the bank's right to sell that property while my claim is superior. The city billed me for October and then refused to accept payment from me stating that I am no longer the owner of the unit with the water meter, and that the new owner instructed them to turn off the water."

She added: "The owner of the other two units, Mike Mimeni, whose ownership is not in dispute, and I, executed a letter to the city stating that he was going to take responsibility for the bill. The city refused payment from him as well."

According to Freed, now Beaverton officials say they will not provide water until the owners file for proper permits to divide the lots legally, something she said was never communicated to her. 

"This problem was created by the city over 40 years ago when they allowed the building permits for eight dwellings on one water meter, against their own ordinance," Freed added.

By Mandy Feder-Sawyer
Reporter, Beaverton Valley Times
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