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Massive water bill forces family out of Belton home they’ve lived in for years, and they’re not alone

BELTON, Mo. -- Sara Plunkett is packing up to move her and her family from the mobile home where they have spent the last five years. She’s not happy about it, but she has no choice.

“We’re being evicted because our water bill is outrageously high,” Plunkett said.

Typically her family of six pays between $150-$200 a month for water. But in June their water bill was $425. In July it was a shocking $598.

“I'm sure we have water usage,” Plunkett said. “Everybody does. But not $600 a month.”

She and her husband both work full-time, but can’t afford to pay rent when the water bill is this ridiculous. They disputed its accuracy with the management of the mobile home park – Southfork in Belton – owned by Sun Communities.

“They said that’s the usage,” Plunkett said she was told by the manager. “That’s what it is.”

She has to take Southfork at its word because Southfork controls the water supply in the park. It buys water from the city of Belton and then sells it to residents, each of whom have a meter on their property. The meters are read by Southfork employees.

The Plunketts have tried to make sure there are no leaks on the property. Months ago they even shut off water to the two sinks, a toilet and the outside faucet. But the water has only climbed higher.

The Plunketts worry that their might be broken or wonder if the mobile home park is trying to push them out for other reasons, like late rent or constant maintenance issues. But the park owners deny that.

The Plunketts aren’t the only residents facing high water bills. Jason Michael, who lives just a few doors away, also was shocked by his last water bill.

“It was $992,” He said. “It was just outrageous. How am I going to pay this with a big family?”

Michael said he knows he doesn’t have a leak because he’s checked the meter and the numbers don’t move until he turns on his water.

“My meter is either broken or they are not reading it right,” Michael said of the mobile home park, which has already started an eviction process against him. That’s upsetting not only to Michael, but to his wife who is eight-months pregnant.

The park manager referred FOX 4 Problem Solvers to its corporate headquarters – Sun Communities in Michigan – for answers as to why the water bills were so high. Division Vice President Tom Carpenter told us the meter readings were verified by an independent contractor.

This month a judge ruled to evict the Plunketts, but the judge dismissed more than $600 of their outstanding water bill charges. The Plunketts have until the end of the month to move, but with an eviction on their record there are not sure who will take them.

By the way, the Plunketts most recent water bill is inexplicably lower than normal – only $114.

As far as the Michael family, FOX 4 Problem Solvers contacted a lawyer from Legal Aid of Kansas City. She has agreed to represent Jason Michael when he and his family fight their eviction in court in September. We’ll let you know what happens.