Listen Live

(INDIANAPOLIS) – 12-hundred families in three Indianapolis apartment complexes could lose their homes over the landlord’s unpaid water bills.

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and Attorney General Todd Rokita have filed separate lawsuits over $2.1 million in unpaid bills at Berkley Commons, Capital Place, and The Woods at Oak Crossing. Utilities are included in the rent at the three complexes, but Citizens Energy CEO Jeffrey Harrison says the companies which own them, Berkley Commons and JPC Affordable Housing, haven’t been passing the money along.

The city paid Citizens $850,000 in February to keep the water turned on at Berkley Commons and Capital Place after a one-day shutdown. Hogsett says the two companies promptly ran up another $1.3 million in unpaid bills. Citizens has filed its own lawsuit to recoup that money, while the city is suing to recover the money it spent earlier.

Harrison won’t rule out cutting off water service, even while the suits are pending. He says the utility has to balance needs of the complexes’ residents with those of its other customers.

A disconnect would force the Marion County Health Department to close the complexes, which in turn would mean the eviction of all residents. Rokita’s chief counsel Scott Barnhart, who heads the office’s consumer protection division, says if he were living in one of those apartments, he’d be looking at other apartments.

JPC, which owns Capital Place and The Woods at Oak Crossing, is an affordable housing nonprofit. The state lawsuit seeks to revoke its nonprofit status. Citizens’ lawsuit asks a judge to create a trust for tenants’ rent money to ensure utility payments are passed along properly.

Hogsett says he hopes the suits will pressure the organizations to sell the properties to “more responsible owners.”