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Broken water line causes damage

I live in Hillcrest Mobile Home Park in Clearwater. One morning I woke up to find a water line under my kitchen sink had burst.

I went outside to the main water valve, but it was broken. I could not shut off the water, which was flooding my mobile home.

I repaired the break under the sink while the water was running. However, my carpeting and kitchen floor were damaged; it will cost me $615 to replace them. I do not have insurance.

The park manager said the park owners are not responsible for the defective main water shut-off valve. The next day I saw the park manager working on this valve.

It is my understanding that Florida Statute 723.022 holds a mobile park owner responsible for maintaining utility connections in proper operating condition.

I am on a fixed income and cannot afford an attorney. Can you help? P.E.

Response: William B. Johnston, property manager for Colliers Arnold Commercial Real Estate Services, said the park "cannot be responsible for damages caused by faulty plumbing in your home."

You did not report the problem to the park manager until the next morning, he said, even though the manager is on call at all times and would have immediately responded to the problem.

State Statute 723.022, which outlines a mobile home park owner's general obligations, says that one of them is to "maintain utility connections and systems for which the park owner is responsible in proper operating condition."

Apparently you did not call the manager at the time of this emergency. On the other hand, the statute does say that maintaining utility connections is the park's responsibility.

You have the option of taking the matter to Small Claims Court, or you might contact Gulfcoast Legal Services, which offers free legal services to persons over 62. In Clearwater the number is 443-0657.

HUD refund

My daughter, who lives in Shreveport, La., has gotten three letters from a company that says it will collect a $214 HUD refund for her for a $64 fee.

Could you please give her HUD's address so she will not have to pay a large fee? That does not sound right!

Thank you. R.V. Schmidt

Response: It sounds as if the refund may have to do with a distributive share or premium refund from the Department of Housing and Urban Development in connection with an FHA mortgage.

At one time, the insured home loans provided by the Federal Housing Administration allowed buyers to either pay the insurance premiums monthly through the life of the loan or pay the whole amount up front.

A homeowner who paid by the month may have been entitled to a premium refund when the loan was paid off if there were not a lot of high claims in his particular insurance group and if he held the property for at least seven years.

If he paid the insurance premiums up front, the homeowner automatically got back a percentage of what he paid _ a distributive share _ regardless of whether he held the property for one year or 20 years.

This was true only of properties purchased in the 1950s or earlier.

Some of the folks who held insured FHA mortgages sold their homes and moved away without knowing they qualified for refunds.

There are two ways to find out if you have money coming. You can call HUD's Office of Finance Accounting Distributive Shares Branch at (703) 235-8ll7 and ask personnel there to check. They will need your FHA case number, which you might get from your deed, your mortgage company or HUD form 22050 Part B.

Or you can use the Federal Freedom of Information Act to get a list of all the names, addresses, case numbers and refund amounts due residents of Florida. That list will cost you $65. Instructions on getting it are available through the HUD number above.

The tracing company that wrote to you makes its money by buying these lists, tracking down the people and charging a percentage of the refund as a finder's fee.

Action solves problems and gets answers for you. If you have a question, or your own attempts to resolve a consumer complaint have failed, write: Times Action, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or call your Action number, 893-8171, or, outside of Pinellas, (800) 333-7505, ext. 8171, to leave a recorded request.

Requests will be accepted only by mail or voice mail; calls cannot be returned. We will not be responsible for personal documents, so please send only photocopies. If your complaint concerns merchandise ordered by mail, we need copies of both sides of your canceled check.

We may require additional information or prefer to reply by mail; therefore, readers must provide a full mailing address, including ZIP code. Upon request, names will not be published.

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