COLTON, Calif. (KABC) --Residents of Colton have been caught in the crossfire between a contractor and a water company - and the result has been a lien on their homes.
Some homeowners, who contacted ABC7 through #abc7eyewitness, are starting to panic, fearing the possibility of foreclosure or being unable to sell their homes through no fault of their own.
"I was terrified - saying my house is in foreclosure, and I thought, this is really serious," said homeowner Dale Fuller.
The fight began after homes in the San Bernardino County city had new water meters installed. Previously residents paid a flat fee for water, about $60 a month depending on the property's size. But a new state law now requires meter-based billing.
After the meters were installed, a financial dispute erupted between the contractor, Merlin Johnson Construction, and the Terrace Water Co. over the cost of that work. So the contractor put liens on hundreds of homes in the area where the meters were installed.
A lawyer for the contractor said the lawsuit is looking for $800,000 from the water company.
But Abby Flores, treasurer for Terrace Water, said the utility's engineer believes the amount in dispute should be closer to $50,000.
Still, while some residents said they are angry and frightened over the ordeal, others say the contractor has been reasonable dealing with them. Resident Dan Soso said 13 people who wanted to sell or refinance their homes contacted the contractor's lawyer and he agreed to lift the liens on them.
A statement from Merlin Johnson Construction's attorney said the company is only interested in the water utility, not causing problems for homeowners, but is exercising its legal rights because it believes the water company has been unreasonable.