Buyer shouldn't be stuck for propane gas

MAILBAG

April 14, 2002

Dear Mr. Azrael:

My husband and I recently purchased a large, 6-year-old house, which is heated by propane gas. The property has a propane tank which when filled to capacity contains 800 gallons of propane gas. The real estate contract signed by both parties clearly stated that the residual propane gas in the tank is conveyed to the buyer by the seller and becomes part of the property of the buyer.

Shortly after purchasing the property, the commercial gas company came to the property at our request after establishing a new account in our name and filled the propane tank to full capacity (800 gallons). They acknowledged that to fill the tank only 312 gallons was required. A residual of 482 gallons was in the tank at the time of the property transfer. The tank was "plugged filled" and shut off.

We then received a bill from the propane company stating that we owed for the full amount of propane, 800 gallons, at the rate of $1.27 per gallon for a total of $1,016.

We made several calls to the gas company, stating that we did not owe the full amount but only for the portion required to top off the tank. Finally, we discussed it with the president of the energy company and pointed out the signed real estate contract, conveying the gas to the buyers.

He stated he was aware of the clause in the real estate contract, but 24 hours later he instructed his accounting department to issue a refund to seller for the 482 gallons of residual propane gas. We were again billed for the total of 800 gallons.

The sellers have acknowledged receipt of a refund check from the energy company but have since refused to answer or return phone calls from our settlement company or from the real estate company that handled the sale. We have been notified by the gas company that our issue is not with them but with the seller of the property.

Do we have any recourse?

Debra Harrison/Tilghman

Eden

Dear Ms. Harrison/Tilghman:

You should not have to pay the energy company for 800 gallons of propane gas when you purchased only 312 gallons.

You should write a letter to this effect to the propane supplier and enclose a check for payment of 312 gallons, with a clear notation, "Payment in full for Invoice No.____." Your letter should reiterate that your check is tendered in full payment of a disputed invoice.

If this partial payment does not satisfy the matter, you may have to sue the sellers to recover the amount refunded to them by the energy company. The sellers have been unjustly enriched by the refund and rightfully should either return it to the energy company or to you if you have paid the propane supplier for the full 800 gallons.

These rights are enforceable by you through the Maryland District Court system as a "small claim."

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