Homeowner receives ‘unexplainable’ $4K water bill after moving into newly-built home

KPRC 2 ‘DRAINED’ Investigation looks into issues with water bills in Houston

Talking about frustrating: an “unexplainable” water bill for more than $4,000. A Kingwood homeowner called KPRC 2 Investigates after giving the city of Houston four months to fix it or explain it. This is just our latest look into water bills that are leaving many of you feeling ‘drained.’

We started our ‘DRAINED’ investigation into irregular, unexplained, skyrocketing water bills last year. And since that time, we have seen the number of complaints into our newsroom increase every week. This latest one from a community in Kingwood reminded us of a similar issue in another new build neighborhood.

Homeowner in brand new home gets an outrageous first water bill

Larry Matthews reached out to Amy Davis about a $4,200 water bill he received for the month of February. It was his first bill in his newly built home in the subdivision of Royal Brook. His bill shows he used 153,000 gallons of water in one month.

Homeowner living in brand new subdivision gets unexplained outrageous water bill. KPRC 2 'DRAINED' Investigation is getting answers. (Copyright 2023 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

Matthews was able to stop the autopay debit from his account before the due date, and he called the City of Houston to dispute the bill. Every month water department employees told him they were still investigating. But after we reached out last week, he got a phone call the very next day.

“After about 15 minutes on Friday, the conclusion was that it was unexplainable. So these things, I guess, happen. I don’t know how they happen but it does and so I was just the unlucky resident in a new subdivision out in Kingwood, that was holding this bill,” said Matthews.

The water department dropped the $4,2011.54 bill down to $40 but told him why it was so high in the first place is just, ‘unexplainable.’

We asked the City of Houston for a better answer. They didn’t make any changes to his meter. So, who’s to say it won’t happen again if they don’t know what caused the inaccurate bill the first time? We have received similar complaints from other homeowners in Royal Brook and we are working to get back to them.

When we pressed the city for an explanation, Public Works spokesperson Katelynn Burns sent this statement by email:

Customer Account Services confirmed the amount registered through the meter and advised him of the option to apply for an Unusually Large Bill Adjustment.

Mr. Matthews submitted the application for an Unusually Large Bill Adjustment and it was inadvertently denied. A further review found that his account did qualify. Water charges of $2,386.51 and sewer charges of $1,782.00 were removed from his account, giving him a balance of $43.03.

Homeowners in another part of town deal with same issue

You may remember, in January, we introduced you to several homeowners who had the same issue with high water bills for the first month of living in their new homes. Amy Davis did a lot of investigating into why these homeowners were being charged for using large amounts of water they clearly were not using.

KPRC 2 Investigates water customers overcharged after wrong meter reads

In this case, the meters installed at these homes were bring read incorrectly. One of the homeowners is the one who discovered the meter readers were incorrectly checking usage. There was one less digit before the decimal at the front. It means instead of reading the numbers as “6,400 gallons” the customer would be charged for “64,000″ gallons.

The city even updated the training manual to reflect this reading change. All customers were refunded their money.

What to do if you get a high water bill

Getting a super high water bill can be a shocker! But it will be even worse if you have your account set up to automatic payment and the money is taken out of your account. Often investigations into what happened could take months and you won’t get your money back until its over. It’s a good idea to set your account to manual pay so this doesn’t happen. Acting quick is key when it comes to fighting a high water bill. Here are the steps you can take to get the help you need.

Do you need help with a water bill issue?

We are continuing our investigation saving you thousands of dollars the city has billed water customers that you don’t owe. If you have an unexplained high bill, send it to Amy Davis. We’ll do our best to get to the bottom of it.

About the Author:

Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.