Thursday, September 29, 2011
Help Me Howard: High Water Bill
Your power bill, your water bill, your cellphone bill, when you get them you know what to expect, but what if one was 10 times the normal amount. After the shock wears off, what can you do? One woman's solution was to call Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser and it's a good thing she did.
WSVN -- You can live without cable TV. It wouldn't be fun, but you can survive without electricity, but take away water and you have got trouble.
Nancy Sanchez, Worried about Mother: "No they disconnected the water, just like that."
Alicia Collazo turned on the tap and got nothing, but her water bill, now that was something.
Alicia Collazo: "Well I was nervous, because I said, 'My God, where will I get the money for this?"
Alicia's bill was $933 for three months, meaning she was accused of using 79,288 gallons of water. Ten times what she normally uses.
Nancy Sanchez: "I freaked out."
Freaked out because her mother lives alone in this public housing unit on a $200 a month social security check, and since Nancy keeps track of her finances she knows her mother can't afford that water bill.
Nancy Sanchez: "That's a lot of money. She is concerned. She doesn't know how she is going to pay it."
After Alicia's water was turned off. Nancy called Miami-Dade Water And Sewer, they checked their meter, said it's working fine, then told Nancy her mother must have had a leak in her apartment.
Nancy Sanchez: "They keep saying it's the bathroom. It's the toilet, it can consume that much water."
Public housing sent out a plumber, he found a minor toilet leak, but later we were told not enough to cause a $933 problem.
Nancy Sanchez: "I thought that maybe someone could have been stealing water, you get cases like that everyday, so I thought it was that."
Nancy says the water went somewhere else and that outrageous water bill is really something else.
Nancy Sanchez: "Oh, angry! I get so upset I want to say more than a couple of words, but I hold my self from saying that because if I do that they won't help me."
Nancy was angry but gave the County nearly a third of the money to get the water turned back on, however seeing her mother facing a bill she can never pay brings out a different emotion from the daughter.
Nancy Sanchez: "Oh it made me cry. It was sad of course it's like she's in a fixed income."
Howard the water meter is apparently working properly. There are no leaks in the apartment, so does an elderly customer have to pay for nearly 80,000 gallons of water, they probably didn't use?
Howard Finkelstein: "Bad news for the customer. Unless the agency admits their meter is defective, you have to pay for the water that came through the meter. If you disagree with their evaluation, check with your water department, some will let you bring in your own expert and others require you to pay them to do a certified meter test."
Once we got involved Miami-Dade Water and Sewer came back out to check again. They determined there were no leaks anywhere. Miami-Dade Housing then stepped forward to help Alicia and paid the rest of the water bill.
Water and Sewer then credited Nancy for the late fees and reconnection fee she had paid to get the water turned back on and they told us a leaky toilet could have caused the $933 water bill.
Howard Finkelstein: "Who knows where the water went in this case, but be careful because a leaky toilet or pool, can use hundreds of thousands of gallons of water a year, and in most cases you won't see it until you get the bill."
Alicia has no idea where the water went, but she is thankful to public housing and water and sewer that the bill went away.
Nancy Sanchez: "Yes, yes, Thank God and thanks to you guys who put a hand. I feel relieved, relieved thank God."
Where did 79,000 gallons of water go? Maybe it was a leaky toilet although the guy sent to look at it said no or we are told some water trucks steal water to fill their tanks, it sounds unlikely, but we keep hearing about stuff like that, so who knows.
By the way, if you think someone is stealing water from a faucet in your yard, they sell devices to stop them from doing that.
Drowning in troubles that are draining your patience? Get with the flow and contact us. We have a stream of information coming through here. We can tap into it for you.