Largo woman owes thousands to city after billing error

Homeowner charged thousands after city mistake

LARGO, Fla. - A Largo woman is being charged more than $6,000 for a billing mistake she didn't make. 

Merry Sanford called the city asking to get a second garbage bin for her home and the unit behind her's where she rents out three apartments. 

Instead, she was told she needed four bins and that each dwelling should be charged for utilities. 

Her monthly utility bill will go up more than double and she'll have to pay more than $6,000 for the years she only paid as a single family dwelling.

She says she's been renting out the apartments for 32 years and was never told she needed to pay for utilities for each of the apartments. 

By law the city can only charge her for money owed four years prior. 

"You have no heart," said Sanford of the city's response, "I mean, how can you call somebody up and give all that hardship of money to pay?" 

She received a letter from the city finance director apologizing for the error, but saying that she must pay out of fairness to other utility payers.  

"I can understand that they have to charge for the four and I will do that from now on," said Stanford, "but the six thousand I want gone." 

Largo mayor Woody Brown says he's spoken with Stanford and understands the difficulty of her situation, but the city must stick to their repayment policy.

He says the only way to dismiss her charges would be to change the policy.

He's willing to talk to other city leaders to discuss changing the policy.

He says Stanford's situation has sparked conversation toward changes in how the city charges properties with additional units that aren't being rented out, but used as separate dwellings like mother-in-law suites. 

Stanford hopes they'll reconsider her charges.

"I mean, that was their mistake," she said, "They apologized, but why do I have to pay for their mistake?" 

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