Disclaimer: The materials provided below are informational and should not be relied upon as your legal advice.
The answer depends on whether you took the property subject to a lien for unpaid balances. You should immediately consult your own attorney to protect your legal rights.
This bill should have been handled through the escrow process, such that the escrow would allocate to the prior owner all outstanding taxes, liens, and other charges of the property. Perhaps you should contact your real estate agent and/or the escrow company to see if they know if someone else should pay it. In theory, perhaps you can file a claim with the escrow company or the title insurance. If they do not pay, perhaps you can sue the responsible party in small claims court, if you are so inclined.
Robert Stempler (please see DISCLAIMER below)
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Generally, unless a lien against the house was filed, the water company cannot pursue you for services you did not use.
Sometimes local water districts are not well advised, so be nice when you discuss it with them. You may have to work up the ladder a few layers because the person answering the phone likely knows little more than what he/she was told by their boss. Bring your escrow papers and deed to show you just took title and, if you have a water bill from your old residence, bring that as well to show you lived somewhere else and paid it in full. No guarantees, but it might help.
You should immediately contact the escrow office and your real estate agent as well because the purchase agreement probably contains a provision for division of costs, which will place liability on the seller.
In the very last resort, a small claims action might be needed to clear this up.
If you need further clarity, please email me at MICHAEL@MIRELAND.US Answers to questions are for general information purposes only and do not establish an attorney-client relationship. This is not legal advice, simply information. You SHOULD NOT act on this information without consulting a competent bankruptcy attorney in your area and providing ALL relevant information.