Protect Yourself From Water Utility Overbilling

is-your-water-utility-bill-overcharging-you
Money May 14, 2018
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Lindsay Cutler

Many homeowners have had the unfortunate experience of receiving an unexpectedly high water bill, despite no actual increase in water usage. It could be a host of problems, from unknown leaks to billing errors at the utility company. Here’s how to investigate the problem on your own.

 

Check for leaks yourself

If you try to contest a water bill, chances are the utility company will try to shift the blame to the homeowner. They’ll ask if you had family visiting, installed a new appliance, or filled the pool this month. Do your due diligence and eliminate any possibility that leaks are a problem on your end. A water damage protection system like Flo is the perfect preventative measure against secret leaks, pipe bursts, and unscrupulous utility companies. Not only is it preventative, it’s also evidence on your side in the event of a dispute.

 

Read your water meter

If you can’t find any leaks on your own, make sure your water meter is correct. Know your regular monthly usage and compare your meter reading with the bill you received, it may not always match up. In San Diego this year, the city discovered that soaring increases in residents’ water bills were actually the fault of one city employee misreading the meters — but not before trying to deflect blame.

“San Diego families who had been paying monthly water bills typically between $200-$300 were reporting one-off spikes into the thousands. Many times, they said the city responded that they either had a leak or a new, more accurate meter.”

Be proactive, check your meter, and document your findings!

 

Fight the Bill

Call up and speak to a representative and take notes (ask for a name, case number, etc). Calmly explain your situation and tell them that you’ve checked for leaks and there has not been more usage than normal. They’ll probably suggest dispatching a city employee to check the meter. Take them up on this! If the issue is still not resolved, and they found no error in the water meter, call an independent third party to perform an inspection (at your expense). Keep all records of contact with the utility company including the case number and names of customer representatives, as well as the written findings from any home inspections or audits. In the meantime, it’s important to pay at least part of the disputed bill — the regular monthly amount you’ve been paying, for example — until the dispute is resolved.