San Francisco woman faces lien on property because of neighbor's unpaid garbage bill

ByMichael Finney and Renee Koury KGO logo
Thursday, January 9, 2020
Woman faces lien on property because of neighbor's unpaid garbage bill
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Paying your bills on time eliminates most worries for homeowners. But your neighbor's unpaid bills shouldn't keep you up at night.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- It's one thing to pay your own bills -- but what if your neighbor doesn't pay his? It shouldn't affect your life -- but a San Francisco woman found herself on the hook for someone else's unpaid bill.

Kaz Jones pays all of her bills with automatic debits every month.

So the scary letter she received made no sense.

"$85 dollars and eight cents. Wait a minute, automatic payments," Jones recalls thinking as she read the letter.

It was a "delinquent bill warning notice" from Recology, saying she never paid her garbage bill and the city might put a lien on her property.

"It's really bad, it's scary too, to hear 'lien on your property,'" Jones explains.

She looked closer. Turns out it was a neighbor's unpaid bill -- a stranger living three blocks away. And if that guy didn't pay his bill -- then she'd be hit with a lien?

"It's (a) lien, and you have to go through all sorts of procedures to eliminate it," she said.

What's worse? The same thing happened last year.

Back then, Recology told her the mistake must have come from the assessor's office or health department, which provide customer addresses.

Jones spent hours on the phone disputing the bill last year, and Recology did correct the mistake -- only to have it crop up again this year.

"This made me angry because it's the second time," said Jones.

This time, she thought about confronting the man up the street who wasn't paying his bill. "Going there, knock on the door and say please pay this," she said.

Instead, she contacted 7 On Your Side. We contacted Recology. Right away, the company investigated and found an incorrect parcel number in its billing system.

Recology said it has now fixed the mistake. Jones won't be getting those notices again. The company said: "While Ms. Jones was never required to pay an incorrect bill or assessed any fines, we realize she was highly inconvenienced by this issue. For that, Recology wishes to extend our sincere apologies and regrets, along with a commitment to learn from our mistake and do better in the future."

"Yeah! Thank you 7 On Your Side, I really appreciate you, your help," Jones said.

We want to thank Recology for making sure the mistake was fixed for good. The company really took this matter to heart, telling us it's a hometown company committed to great customer service -- it's rare to hear these kinds of problems.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.