Apartment complexes in Harlingen, Alamo to change 'free water' policy

Hundreds of people who rent at apartments across the Rio Grande Valley will soon have to dish out more money each month.

It stems from a change with utility services at six apartment complexes under the same management.

Carlos Vasquez is a tenant at Fountain View Apartments on East Davis in Harlingen.

"The water was for free," he said.

That is until the complex put a notice on his door that he will soon be responsible for paying water and trash services.

The letter reads in part: As of June 1st, 2012... All utility charges will be passed on to tenants each month.

Carlos is on a fixed income.

He signed a 1 year lease agreement last October under the impression he would only be responsible for electricity.

"I have to be aware and careful with my money because I have a family and I need to make sure that they're fed... And taken care of... Before I can take care of a bill they said they would take care of," he explained.

Management at Fountain View couldn't immediately be reached by office or phone through Monday afternoon.

Action 4 Legal Analyst, John Blaylock, says without a clear clause allowing for a change with utilities, there may be a built in defense to get out of that lease.

"It can be called constructive eviction... That's where the owner of the place over the renter creates a condition that is unbearable for the tenant... That they constructively evict them... This means they can move out with no repercussions."

Carlos is glad to hear that he'll likely have another 6 more months before he has to worry about paying more money each month.

"I called for action because I needed help... I needed somebody with a voice that can tell us... This is not right," Carlos said.

Action 4 News was finally able to reach management by Monday evening to discuss the changes related to water and trash services.

Over the phone, Supervisor Joanna Cortez said the June 1st, 2012 deadline would only impact renters without a lease agreement.

Apparently more than half of all renters across six complexes do not have a lease agreement in place.

Most rent month-to-month.

The complexes in Harlingen include: Valley View, Spring Creek, Fountain View, River View and Buckingham.

There's also a complex in Alamo called East Crockett.

Renters will pay a percentage of the buildings total bill which will be based on the number of occupants listed on the lease, according to Cortez.

The bill will not include charges for landscaping or amenities like pools at complexes.

When asked why the letter sent out on April 6th failed to mention which renters would be impacted, Cortez said, "I don't know... I'm telling people over the phone."

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