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Eviction dispute: Can landlord shut off Delray Beach renter's water?

Veteran without water asks Contact 5 for help
Water tap, faucet
Posted at 4:04 PM, Jul 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-29 18:12:09-04

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — A 68-year-old veteran facing eviction had his water turned off by his landlord, according to documents obtained by Contact 5.

Phillipe Jones’ landlord filed an eviction complaint in Palm Beach County court on April 15, accusing Jones of being behind in his rent by about $1,200, a contention Jones disputes.

Jones then reached out to Contact 5, saying on July 6 the landlord had Jones' water shut off, and sent us video shot by a neighbor showing how he’d turn on faucets or flush toilets and nothing would happen.

Jones sent us videos because we couldn’t get access to the gated community of Kings Point where Jones rents a condo.

Jones, who served in the Marines, said he wasn’t able to shower at his condo for much of July and his video shows a neighbor helping out, filling up jugs of water that he lugged back to his home.

"I’ve had to heat water up on the stove to wash my face and hands and shave," Jones said.

Court papers in the eviction case include Jones’ rental agreement, which shows the landlord is responsible to pay the water bill.

The Palm Beach County Utilities Department emailed Contact 5, confirming the landlord, Elizabeth Alexis, shut off the water on July 6.

Contact 5 obtained documentation from a Pam Beach County Code Enforcement officer who ordered the water turned back on. The county cited the landlord for a violation of the Palm Beach County Property Maintenance Code.

Jones said his water returned on July 23.

Contact 5 obtained an email from the Palm Beach County Utilities Department that the water was turned off for a total of 10 days.

"This lady has been putting me through the wringer," said Jones. "And I don’t feel it’s fair."

Jones disputes that he owes nearly $1,200 in rent.

A document obtained by Contact 5 shows the West Palm Beach Housing Authority provides $588 a month to help pay Jones' rent.

When we reached out to landlord Alexis, she would not go on camera, but she referred Contact 5 to her attorney. He didn’t return our calls.

“In this situation, there’s nothing, I would allege that there’s nothing legal about what’s happening,” said Joe Grant, Jones’ lawyer.

Grant said Jones’ landlord violated Florida’s landlord statute 83.67 which reads “a landlord… shall not cause… the termination or interruption of any utility service furnished the tenant including… water."

“She is turning off the utilities,” said Grant. “Which makes the unit uninhabitable.”

“I never thought I’d ever run into this kind of problem,” added Jones. “This is insane.”

A hearing is scheduled on the eviction complaint for August 31.

If you're in a situation where you need to know the rules and duties of both landlords and tenants, click this link, which is the Florida Bar Association's pamphlet on the subject which covers several scenarios including eviction and utility shut offs.

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