Water bill woes: Woman owes city $5,000 after what she calls a mistake

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HOUSTON – A southwest Houston woman said she is on top of paying her bills every month, but when she received a water bill for more than $5,000, she said enough is enough.

"I don't have a swimming pool, I don't have any of that, and I can't understand how my bill gets this high," Patsy Henry, 74, the homeowner said.

Henry has lived in the same home for more than 40 years. So when something isn't right, she said, she knows. Her water bill three months ago was astronomically high.

"$5,482.08," Henry said.

It was a bill that changed her life, as she works to pay it every month.

"Oh no! I don't miss months," Henry said.

Patsy Henry, the head of the household is a 74-year-old mother, wife and grandmother. Henry said this water bill fiasco started in late 2017 when she received a bill for more than $4,000.

"All of a sudden, I get this bill for $4,000, and I called, and I asked, '$4,000 something dollars? I don't have a swimming pool or nothing (like that),'" Henry said.

When Henry asked why the bill was so high, she said the answers were not clear.

"They told me for about 11 months, I wasn't paying nothing but sewage. I said, 'All I do, when y'all send me my bill, whatever it got on there, I send the money to y'all,'" Henry said.

However, she also pointed out to them a huge difference in her water usage. For the month of March last year, it showed she used 214,000 gallons of water more than 10 times the amount she normally uses. The next month was much lower. Henry said she was told she probably had a leak, however, with no leak in sight and no repairs, the water usage still went down the following month to 26,000 gallons. Despite her attempts to explain and argue she said getting help was extremely difficult. She got the runaround and said she gave up.

"Well, I have to pay it -- try to pay it anyhow," Henry said.

Agreeing on a payment plan of about $250 a month, she said she kept up with payments, chipping away at the mountainous cost. At one point that bill was down to around $3,000. However three months ago, Henry said her heart sunk. She got another water bill with another astronomical number.

"One thousand, seven-hundred dollars and some," Henry said.

The bill showed another unusually high usage that seemed to again stand alone, showing use of 99,000 gallons of water in February which went down to 16,000 gallons that next month. The whopping total is now $5,482.08 and counting. Henry, who was recently diagnosed with cancer, said she is struggling.

"It's been going on for a really long time, and I'm still trying to pay it off, but I can't," Henry said in tears.

She said she just tries to do what is right, but she feels it's the city's mistake she is paying for.

"I don't have a pool or anything like that, and so I don't understand why my bill would be that high," Henry said.

To add insult to injury, Henry said that this week the city shut off her water for two days. She said it was awful.

"They shut if off because the bill is over $5,000. OK, what am I supposed to do?" Henry said.

Henry's son was able to pay $300 to get the water back on. KPRC has reached out to the city and the woman's councilwoman. Houston Department of Public Works got back to KPRC and said they are looking into Henry's case and what happened and would get back to the KPRC team soon.