Houston – We are listening to your water bill concerns. Dozens of you are telling us about your experience with the Houston Water Department. We’ve heard about phone calls, emails unanswered, and little to no communication to explain huge bills that threaten you and your family’s well-being.
Our KPRC 2 Investigates team has shared stories that have you feeling ‘DRAINED’ over inaccurate bills and months-long delays to help customers look for answers. Now, KPRC 2 Investigates explains a customer’s last chance at getting help and how often it is working.
You asked: What can I do if I think my water bill is wrong?
1. Alert the water department, keep records
As soon as you open or see a bill that seems off, unusually high, or just wrong, you should pick up the phone and call the water department and email them so you have proof of the date that you reached out. This should always be your first step. And keep track of the time because the next few steps are all based on days.
2. Request an administrative review
If you’ve alerted the water department and have not gotten answers your next step is to request an administrative review. You have to do this within 90 days of when the bill you are contesting was issued.
3. Account will be put on hold
As soon as you request a review your account is on hold and you won’t accrue late charges for the bill you are appealing. The review may take up to 30 days by the water department and you will be notified by mail of what they decide.
4. Still need help? Request administration hearing
Within 10 days of getting that letter if they did not tell you what you want to hear you can ask for an administrative hearing. Setting up your hearing could take up to 60 days. When you get one it will be by phone with a hearing examiner.
We spoke with two customers who went through that process
“I think he was completely biased. He listened but it was very, very clear that he had his decision made. And I could feel that vibration from him on the phone call that I’m just getting some information from you but we know what we’re gonna do,” said Alicia Gregorio, a water customer disputing an $18,000 water bill.
“I asked him, ‘Well, are you volunteering this or what?’ he said, ‘Oh no the city pays me.’ So, I was not surprised that he ruled in favor of the city,’” said another water customer Gladys House.
The city tells KPRC 2 Investigates these hearing examiners are approved by the director of public works. They are not city employees but they are paid about $50 an hour to hear these water bill disputes and issue a decision.
5. Last step: Water adjustment board
You will receive that decision by mail. And once again if you don’t think it’s fair you’ve got 10 days to ask for a hearing before the water adjustment board. This is the only one of these options that is in person. The board is made up of three people appointed by the mayor. They only meet once a quarter.
How often does the water board rule in favor of customers?
According to the city between September 1, 2020, and August 31st of this year, the board heard 48 cases.
In just 7 of those the board reversed the hearing examiner’s decision and ruled in the customer’s favor.
All resources you need to fight your water bill
- How to apply for a water board hearing - You have to log into your water bill account and message customer service to request to be the water board hearing process