City Government

Published on July 21st, 2016 |


Buckhead high-rise condo avoided paying for city water, sewer a decade or more

Investigations by CBS46 and WSB-TV’s Richard Belcher have found that the homeowner’s association of the Buckhead high-end high-rise Phoenix condominium building has not been properly paying the city of Atlanta for water and sewer services for almost 15 years.

“It could be anywhere from $900,000 to $1.8 million that we owe,” condo owner Chuck Walker told CBS46.  Atlanta’s Department of Watershed Management told CBS46 they share the responsibility for the error and will not be back billing the condo association.

The Phoenix on Peachtree condominium building, which opened in about 2001.

The Phoenix on Peachtree condominium building, which opened in about 2001.

Walker loves where he lives, but hates the recent issue involving questionable billing involving his homeowners association at the Phoenix condos on Peachtree Road across from The Peach shopping center in Buckhead.

“I’m assuming that there’s enough money in the fund to cover any expense we have from past due water bills,” Walker told the television station for its copyrighted story.

Former Atlanta school superintendent Errol Davis is a member of the homeowners association.  He said the condos were being over charged for water and under charged for sewer usage for nearly a decade. (To read the CBS46 news report, click here.)

“We have not been assessed any arrearages,” Davis told CBS46. “And that’s part of our understanding going forward, so I do not anticipate that we will be paying anything going forward.”

CBS46 questioned Davis to find out if any of the excess money collected by the HOA would be returned to condo owners. “Uh, no it will not for a number of reasons.  First of course is that the reserves of the HOA are owned by the unit owners,” Davis explained.

Meanwhile, Channel 2 Action News investigative reporter Richard Belcher found the homeowners’ association knew it wasn’t being billed for at least 12 years.

“It’s shocking to me. If everyone knew this story, it would cause outrage to everyone,” Phoenix condo owner Jack Richardson told WSB’s Belcher. Richardson moved into the building in 2001, just as it opened.

Richardson became aware of the billing problem from a homeowners’ association audit that stated: “As of December 31, 2003, the association had not received a bill for a meter that services

Phoenix condo owner and former Atlanta Schools Superintendent Errol Davis.

Phoenix condo owner and former Atlanta Schools Superintendent Errol Davis.

common areas…This has been a problem from the beginning.”

Richardson told Belcher that he was told the homeowners’ association would pay the bill.

In early 2015, 11 years after that audit revealed the billing problem, other residents began to ask questions, WSB reported. One email to fellow residents stated: “it’s very unfortunate that the board…made the extremely questionable decision more than a decade ago not to discover why the association was being grossly under-billed.”

Another emailed: “Surely the directors did not believe the ‘free’ services would last forever.”

WSB reported that another resident told the TV station that HOA board member Davis had said, “The board did not feel that there was an ethical or legal obligation to attempt to pay….unless the city sent a bill.”

“I believe over 15 years we owe approximately $1 million without penalties and interest, just on the bill alone,” Belcher was told by Richardson, who is a financial adviser.
Atlanta Watershed Management spokeswoman Lillian Govus told Belcher, “It’s a significant amount of money.” The city provided billing records dating back to 2001. Govus told Belcher the Phoenix paid only a few water bills since then and has not paid any sewer bills. She added that the water bills Phoenix did pay were about 95 percent too low.

WSB’s Belcher reported, “After members from the HOA board approached the city last fall, the city found meter and billing problems at the condo location that stretched back perhaps as far as 2001.” As of October 2015, the HOA started paying both sewer and water bills.

“Right now, the city has no intent to back-bill this property, because part of it was our responsibility,” Govus told Belcher.

“I can’t believe the lengths that the board went to to hide this for so long,” Richardson said.

“This should have been resolved 15 years ago and could have, had the board, you know, just made a five-minute call to the city water and sewer department.”

Davis told Belcher the billing issue was the result of turnover on the HOA board at the Phoenix on Peachtree, where condo prices today range from $400,000 to more than $1 million.

(To read WSB-TV’s full report, click here.)



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4 Responses to Buckhead high-rise condo avoided paying for city water, sewer a decade or more

  1. steve Shiflet says:

    Would the city not bill a residence for back due water or sewage bills? Seems like a double standard for this condo building, which can definitely afford to pay their due share. It’s no wonder the city can not afford to fix the the sewer over flows into a city park where our children play in Memorial Park!

  2. Buckhead Bob says:

    Outrageous! They knew they owed the bill and still aren’t being forced to pay! Someone needs to investigate! Oh, Richard Belcher already did…

  3. Missie Beach says:

    Who is on the Board of The Phoenix who thinks they are above paying correct water and sewer bills like the rest of Atlanta? Unbelievable. I’d also like to know what they do for a living because if this is how they operate in their personal lives, I’m sure they’re just as crooked in their business operations. Completely unethical. They should be exposed and I’m sure they wouldn’t mind, seeing that they didn’t think there wasn’t anything wrong with their actions.

  4. Michael Moore says:

    Funny how we wonder how a we ask how they run their affair! The private sector has to balance their books! Only government is allowed to operate without balancing the books. Let’s be honest the sewer charge is a cash cow! I water my lawn every year during the summer months, and I am charged for sewage! The water department can track this and adjust for the extra usage, and charge accordingly. They are reaping huge profits from this!! Who will investigate this? Call and ask how much it is to install an irrigation meter!!

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