Owner of Sunset Village, Richfield Court apartments owes Flint $1+ million for water

The owner last made a partial water bill payment for the complexes over three years ago in December 2017
Published: Feb. 12, 2021 at 6:28 PM EST
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - The out-of-state owner of the Sunset Village and Richfield Court apartment complexes in Flint owes the city more than $1 million for unpaid water bills.

The city condemned Sunset Village Apartments last week after someone apparently cut or stole water pipes, leaving about 15 residents with no heat or running water. The city also condemned two blighted buildings in Richfield Court and plans to demolish four others.

A spokeswoman for the owner, who is based in Florida, has said they plan to repair and sell both complexes because they are too difficult to manage effectively from out of state.

Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley said the city eventually will pursue a lawsuit against the owner to recover the water bills, which total nearly $1.2 million combined. The outstanding balances due are $884,939 at Sunset Village and $282,546 at Richfield Court.

Neeley pointed out that Flint water customers who paid their bills while the owner of Sunset Village and Richfield Court did not effectively have subsidized the apartment complexes over the years.

“Sometimes I get the question why the water bill is so high, what is going on,” Neeley said. “Well, we have a habitual nonpayers.”

He couldn’t discuss how many businesses in the city are not keeping up with their water bills. The owner of Sunset Village and Richfield Court last made a partial payment on their water bills in December 2017.

“We can’t stabilize our rate system, because we have all this outstanding debt that is owed to us from these bad actors, and so it doesn’t allow us to really stabilize and then be able to really pass on, you know, a real affordable rate to our residents,” Neeley said.

He said people who actually pay their water bills essentially are picking up the tab for habitual nonpayers like Sunset Village and Richfield Court.

“The $800,000 of water usage didn’t just happen overnight, so I’m just, I’m left to clean up this mess and we’re paying very close attention and we’re holding them accountable,” Neeley said.

But because it isn’t a mess that showed up overnight -- or even last week -- why didn’t Neeley’s administration take action sooner? He’s been in office since November 2019.

“It didn’t happen here, so you could talk about the previous administration or you could talk about emergency management. Equally they failed the residents of this community,” Neeley said.

He said city officials are evaluating their processes and conducting operational audits to determine where the failures are.

Neeley pointed out that residents living in Sunset Village and Richfield Court are not responsible for the water bills. They have been paying for water as part of their rent, but the owners did not pass it along to the city.

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