Family steaming after former tenant leaves $1,900 electric bill

SEATTLE -- A south Seattle family is sweating it out because someone else didn't pay a giant electricity bill.

Liz Havlin, her husband, and their 4-month old son moved into their apartment on 1st Ave. S at the beginning of July. The Havlins found the 800-square-foot space perfect for their needs when they did a walk-through prior to signing a lease.

Havlin filled out a form on the Seattle City Light website to transfer the electricity service a few days prior to moving, she says. It wasn't until their first night in the apartment that she tried to switch on the lights - and nothing worked.

"(A customer service rep) explained to me that someone has to pay the bill before they can turn the power on. My first reaction was, why didn't anybody say anything earlier?" Havlin said, sitting in the apartment Monday, as temperatures hovered near 80 degrees. "We wouldn't have moved in so quickly. Now I can't go back. Now we're here and there's no power."

The previous tenants moved out of the same apartment about 18-months ago and left behind about $1,900 in unpaid bills, said Scott Thomsen, spokesman for Seattle City Light. In that case, the utility's policy is to collect the amount from the customer or the landlord, he said.

"These things do come up where someone leaves without paying their electric bill. It gets left with the landlord," Thomsen said. "They're typically not happy about having the responsibility of paying if we can't track down the person who left."

Multiple messages left for the Havlins' landlord went unreturned Monday. Liz Havlin said she'd run into the same issue - leaving several messages for her property owner - without hearing back.

Unhappy with the red tape she was facing, Havlin started an online petition this week to lobby the utility to turn electricity on to her unit. A neighbor helped with a temporary fix by running an extension cord to her balcony, so she could power a computer and a small fan for the living room.

By Monday afternoon, after KOMO News reached out to City Light, a spokesman said they're going to allow Havlin to turn on the unit's electricity after an inspection of the unit, while going after the landlord for the money owed.

Havlin said she was grateful for the help.

"I think if somebody moved out a year and a half ago and left a big bill, it somehow seems like something someone else should deal with," she said. "It's somebody's responsibility but it's my problem. I don't have power, so until somebody pays that $1,900 dollars, I guess we'll keep that extension cord," she said.
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