HOUSTON – Imagine paying your water bill every month on time only to learn years later you were actually paying for water your neighbors used. And now, the Houston water department says you owe thousands more for your own water.
Our KPRC 2 Investigates team has another example of Houston water issues leaving customers ‘DRAINED’.
Missing water meter confusion
This is a tale of two meters and one single mom in Fifth Ward. Andrea Harclerode is terrified the City of Houston is sticking her with a $15,000 water bill.
“It’s just like talking to a brick wall, you know,” said Harclerode.
To explain what has her frustrated and frightened, you need the backstory.
Harclerode purchased her home in 2019 and set up her water account. Her bills were consistent. Her first clue that something was wrong came months later when she realized turning the water off at the meter in her driveway didn’t stop it in her house. She reported the problem to the city but got nowhere.
“No one ever came. No one ever messaged back,” she said.
Two years later during the February freeze, her pipes busted and water poured into her home. Again, she called and emailed the city.
“I called 911. I was like, ‘Can the fire department shut off the water because there’s no way to shut off my water,’” said Harclerode.
Three days later, the city sent someone who found a valve under some siding on her home to stop the water.
“They’re like, ‘Oh the water shut off,’ and they were gone. Like no fixing anything. No follow-up, no nothing,” she explained.
Neighbors told the homeowner the meter was buried under the driveway
Harclerode’s neighbors, who’ve lived here for decades, told her the meter to her home was paved over by the previous owners. It was underground. She repeatedly reported this to the city in 2021 but continued to pay the bills they sent until she got one for $741.
“I told them, I was like, ‘this is the last straw,’” said Harclerode, “That’s more than my mortgage and I don’t even have a car note.”
Her Ring camera captured the day in January when a Public Works employee finally came out to find *her* meter.
A couple of hours of digging revealed Harclerode’s meter was located on the other side of her driveway.
The four-year water meter mystery was finally solved.
But no, this tale takes another turn.
Days later, the city sent her a $15,000+ dollar bill.
“I’m in tears half the time trying to explain my situation over and over. It’s just, it’s so frustrating.”
The dial on the water meter Harclerode paid for four years is still spinning, sending water somewhere.
“I’m going to school. I’m working. I’m taking care of a baby. Like I’ve spent hours and hours for the past month trying to talk to them.” said Harclerode.
On February 9 we asked the water department how it determined Harclerode owed more than $15,000. While they didn’t answer our question, they did assign a case worker to Harclerode’s account to investigate. And while they do, they have put that bill on hold.
This is the statement emailed to us from a Houston Public Works spokesperson:
“The meter has been uncovered from the driveway and Andrea Harclerode’s account is currently in the Administrative Review process. Customer Account Services sent a written notice informing her about the Administrative Review and last spoke with her on February 24th, 2023. Her current balance is $7900 but the account is on hold and not accruing any fees. Customer Account Services advised Ms. Harclerode to pay her current charges of $33.74 from her February bill until the proper adjustments can be made. Customer Account Services will continue to work directly with the customer to resolve any of her concerns/questions.”
KPRC 2 Investigates will follow up and let you know what happens.