PORTSMOUTH -- More than 200 families in Portsmouth could be forced from their homes if a $34,167 water bill isn't paid.
The Charlestowne Condominiums Association pays the water bills, not individual unit owners. However, several owners haven't paid their bills for years.
'They haven't paid in the past, what makes us think they will pay now?' council member Bill Moody questioned.
City officials say if a payment is not received by February 10, water service will stop and families will be forced to leave 238 units located on Darren Circle.
The city is working with the property manager, United Property Associates, to come up with a payment plan.
'It's the city's desire that this delinquent bill issue will not negatively impact the residents of Charlestowne Condominiums,' city spokesperson Dana Woodson said.
Charlestowne Condominium Association board member Trent Balderson said some residents are thousands of dollars behind in their payments.
'About a third of the association are not paying the fees. We have been trying to solve the problems, but it's been difficult,' Balderson said.
United Property Associates has taken families to court and some of the homes have been condemned.
'A lot of times they leave and just come right back. With this coming to light, there seems to be an interest in enforcing more consequences,' Balderson said.
According to city records, United Property Associates hasn't paid its bills on time since 2009. In 2011, the city placed a lien on the property. The following year, the city made a payment plan with UPA and balances decreased briefly. By the end of 2012, UPA fell behind on bills again and signed a new payment plan with the city. The next year, the city rejected a new payment plan after UPA failed to hand over money again.
By December 2013, city leaders informed council of the plan to cut off water service. Earlier this year, the city learned the condo association is also late paying bills to HRSD, Dominion Power and Master Insurance. The city has issued pre-notices of condemnation to the complex.
Balderson said he didn't know how they would come up with the money and said one option is raising the condo association fee for the residents who do pay on time.
Moody said it's time for the city to go after the LLC that owns the property, instead of the property manager.
Moody said one solution could be to add a water meter at each condo unit, but that would be expensive for homeowners to install.