Homeowners slapped with 1974 sewer bill - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Homeowners slapped with 1974 sewer bill

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 TOWN OF DUNN (WKOW) -- After paying annual sewer fees over a decade of home ownership, Bruce and Irene Liebenstein discovered they owed a $2,149 sewer connection charge from 1974 - a forty year old bill from before Irene was even born.

"We were just astounded that this could happen," Irene Liebenstein tells 27 News.

Their astonishment has turned to frustration over having to cover this bill.

The unpaid connection charge was discovered during a property title search. Before the Liebensteins could close on the sale of the home last month, the outstanding debt had to be satisfied.

Liebenstein says she's working to recoup the money, but says the effort's been difficult.

Here's the timeline for this charge:

* 1974: Peter Melone purchases the new home, but is never assessed the sewer connection fee.

* 2004: Bruce Liebenstein purchases the home: Dane County Title Company discovers no unpaid, sewer charges.

* 2014: Preferred Title's search of records in anticipation of the Liebenstein's sale of the home turns up the forty year old, unpaid sewer charge to the Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District. The Town of Dunn is one of approximately thirty municipal units with contracts with MMSD for treatment of sewage waste.

"I can't get the title company to cover it," Liebenstein tells 27 News. "I can't get Madison Met to forgive it. And I can't get the Town of Dunn to take responsibility. So I don't know what else we're left with."

Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District  Director Michael Mucha says MMSD relies on its customers to notify the district of sewer connections. He estimates as many as five connections annually are discovered where there's been no notification and no connection payments. Mucha says these discoveries come about at times when staff inspect aerial maps and discover homes in subdivisions, and follow up to collect connection fees. "We work with municipalities to recover the cost," Mucha tells 27 News.

Dane County Title's Kevin Neuberger tells 27 News when his company inquired of the Town of Dunn in 2004 when the Liebenstein purchased the property, no unpaid, sewer fees were revealed. Neuberger since the inquiry, standard practice in the local housing industry has changed, with municipalities charging title companies for more extensive title searches. Neuberger also says property title insurance exempts the failure to disclose items such as deferred assessments and environmental impact fees.

 In an email to Liebenstein, Town of Dunn Sewerage District official Al Monroe says he's unable to pinpoint why the unpaid fee went undiscovered for forty years. Mucha says the build out of developments approved for sewer connection to MMSD can occur years after the approval, with personnel at municipalities sometimes changing, and fee requirements sometimes falling through the gaps.

Liebenstein says she will continue to push to be made whole. She says that reluctantly extends to original home owner Melone. "I'm hoping to contact Peter. I mean, I feel horrible, because he as well did not know about this charge, and I would hate for someone ten years after close to come after me."

Mucha sympathizes with the plight of the Liebensteins, without offering a route to resolution.

"I feel they're victims in this situation."












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