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Jesse Jones Investigates Costly Utility Hook Up Mistake

There are water bills, and then there’s the surprise one that Shea Dunlap received for not having a water meter.

“So, it’s $9,000 for the meter itself and an additional $1,200 to have somebody come and put it in,” said Shea.

Snohomish PUD crews inspecting the area for utility work discovered the issue, 7 years after the Dunlap’s bought the home.

“We did not know about this. I couldn’t take care of it because it’s something I didn’t know about,” said Shea.

Here’s what happened, Shea and her husband, David, rented the home for a year and then bought it from the builder.

Shea said she talked to Snohomish PUD about changing over all of the utilities.

Brant Wood from Snohomish PUD says the water was hooked up without its knowledge.

“I can understand why they are upset,” said Wood.

Wood says there was no way for the Dunlap’s to know what happened because water and power bills are paid on the same bill.

As for the water meter, that’s another issue entirely.

“Whoever actually connected to it should have known that when you’re connecting to the service that it has to be metered,” said Wood.

The previous owner of the home was its builder, Lance Harvey.

“Somewhere in there, the builder had to talk to PUD. And PUD had to send somebody out here,” said Shea.

In fact, Harvey did communicate with PUD.

In emails I obtained from June of 2010, Harvey wrote an email to the utility saying, “he needs a meter and hook up at the house.” And PUD wrote that the cost of the water meter was $7990.

Fast forward to 2017, and we know the meter was never installed.

However, the PUD is still demanding the Dunlap’s pay.
I asked Wood if there was any way to make the builder pay.  “I don’t have a relationship with the builder, I have a relationship with the customer. The customer is the one using the water right now,” said Wood.

In the purchase agreement for the home, the Identification of Utilities Addendum shows what utilities are hooked up to the home. Harvey wrote that PUD Water is providing service.

The addendum also says it’s the seller’s obligation to pay all utility charges.
Real Estate experts tell me that would include the $10,000 water meter.

“We could have worked that out. We could have known about it. Nobody knew about it,” said Shea.

The Dunlap’s say they tried to get Harvey to pay and he declined.

Harvey told me he built the house for a now defunct bank.

Harvey’s lawyer said these claims are outside of the statute of limitations.

“Somebody didn’t do their job,” said Shea.  “I think there’s quite a few people that did not do their job.”

I decided to call Harvey, and after going back and forth for months.  He sent me an email today confirming he sent a check to the Dunlaps.

David wants to be happy, “I’m ecstatic.”

But the couple will wait for the check to cash, to make sure they don’t get soaked.

“He used the cliché with you, the check’s in the mail. So, we’ll see,” said Shea.

Harvey, the builder, says the bank repossessed the property. He adds the bank didn’t pay the for the bill for the water meter. Harvey insists that he’s not legally obligated to pay for the water meter, but he is doing so.

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