COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Vicki Saunders has lived at Hampton Woods Apartments since July of 2021, and the lease agreement, she said, states that residents will be billed for water.

The only issue with that, according to Saunders — “Never have I received a bill.”

Saunders said property management told her that billing and payments could be done online through a resident portal. But Saunders said it was never set up and she never saw a statement, even when a new property management company, LINK, took over, about a month after she moved in.

“Never have I ever, since I’ve been here, received a bill,” said Saunders.

Saunders said she would repeatedly check the resident portal for a water bill. But, nothing, until July of 2022, when she found a letter on her door from LINK, a notice to inform residents that they had resumed billing for water back to September of 2021.

“It said that they would be billing us $440,” Saunders said, to be due with rent on August 1.

Saunders immediately reached out to property management. “I did go down to speak with them, and said, ‘You know, that’s quite a hardship. Can we spread this out?’ Of course, they said, ‘Yes. We’re going to offer some sort of forbearance agreement, try to split it into three or four payments.'”

Even though the company was willing to work with residents, Saunders said she doesn’t understand how or why this happened. “I’ve called the corporate office, left a couple messages and said ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ They won’t call you back,'” said Saunders.

So, her next call was to Better Call 4. I answered and reached out to LINK Property Management. The company responded, telling me in a statement that:

When our team assumed management, residents were notified that Hampton Woods would be moving to a RUBs billing system. Because of this, there would be deferred water billing as the change was implemented, followed by a one-time lump bill covering the transition period. Our team worked to ensure that residents understood the change in billing structure and related bill, and that they had the information they needed to prepare appropriately in the manner that best suited their preferences. Residents also had the option to continue monthly water bill payments through their Resident Account. By doing so, they could create an account credit that would be applied to this deferred water bill—many of our residents opted to take advantage of this option.

The Hampton Woods management team, communicated this multiple times through notices, as well as individual conversations when questions arose. We also worked with the community’s Resident Committee to ensure all residents were aware of the change. When the RUBS billing systems went into effect, all Residents were offered a flexible payment plan, allowing them to pay their deferred water bill over monthly installments if they chose to do so.

Our team has also been in contact with Ms. Saunders to ensure any questions have been answered and offer any additional support can provide. If you have additional questions, please feel free to reply to me at this email. 

While specific information regarding LINK’s accounts with the Division of Water is unavailable, I can confirm that this account is in good standing.

LINK Property Management

Saunders said she was not properly notified. And looking back, said she would have acted sooner. “It’s also good to look up those things, ask those questions and just advocate, advocate for yourself,” said Saunders. “There’s nothing wrong with that.”

Saunders said she notified LINK that she would not pay the $440 without documentation of usage. LINK did not provide that. Saunders said she filed rent escrow in September and is now working with Legal Aid.