Big water bill bobs to the surface after 22 years

STATEN ISLAND (WABC) -- Back in 1996, online auction site eBay started. The Dow topped just 6,000 points and Independence Day with Will Smith was tops at the box office. It was also the year a big water bill was run up, but never paid.

A family was blindsided when they went to sell their property and the bill came bobbing to the surface.

"Shock. I was shocked. The whole family was shocked," said Louise Camerlingo, expressing her surprise seeing a geyser of a water bill for $800. "We said no, no, no, no, no, no. Something's wrong... I pay all my bills."

The super-soaker charge was huge. But even more surprising, the bill was 22 years old from 1996 back when another Bill was President.

"They said we inherited the bill. You're closing. You own the property. Now, you gotta pay the bill," said Ernest Camerlingo.

The family only found out about it when they were selling their Staten Island townhouse in January.

The DEP debt was threatening to scuttle their deal. The only way to save the closing - put $2,000 in escrow while they fought the city's water bill.

Linda wrote a letter back in January and said DEP responded it would get back to her within a month. In March, when Louisa says she hadn't heard from DEP, a friend gave her some advice.

"Why don't you get someone really important on this with you? You're fighting city hall. Get 7 On Your Side," the friend suggested.

So the Camerlingos sent us an SOS and we called DEP. Within a week, the DEP sent a letter reversing the bill late fees and penalties.

"They forgave all our charges. We want to thank you, 7 On Your Side, because without this helping us, saving us - without you, this wouldn't happen!" said Ernest and Louise.

The DEP apologized for the "delayed response" to their inquiry saying it believed the charges were legit. Since they were so old, they agreed to reverse them and forgive the debt.

The title company should've flagged the couple before closing. When buying or selling a home make sure you check old utilities are not attached to the property.


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