Imagine getting a water bill for a home that hasn’t existed in more than 20 years. That’s what happened to the Garcia family in Shady Acres. They reached out to KPRC 2 Investigates feeling ‘DRAINED’ after trying to resolve a growing bill with the Houston water department for more than a year!
In 1999, Elena and Tomas Garcia demolished a house on a piece of property they own near the Heights. No house means there’s no water flowing anywhere from the meter that was once attached. In late 2021, the city of Houston started charging a monthly fee for the meter that was still in the ground. To make those charges stop, the city said the couple would have to spend thousands of dollars.
“It’s not fair at all,” said Elena Garcia.
The bill is now $449.95. The Houston water department was charging Elena Garcia and her husband $24.56 a month- the base water charge for the house that no longer exists.
“We started to call the city. They told us we needed to get it removed to avoid that fee every month,” said Garcia.
Homeowner told to get a permit for the meter
She says a water department employee told her to get a ‘cut and abandon’ permit for the meter. That was $90. Then, they told her she had to hire a plumber to remove it at her own expense. Houston Public Works directed her to a list of approved plumbers who are bonded and licensed to plug the meter. The lowest quote she got for the job was about $1,500.
“It’s a very expensive thing to do to remove it, so people just don’t want to have to pay it- so you can keep on paying that monthly fee if you want.”
When we reached out to the city for answers we didn’t get any right away.
Instead, a public works crew showed up at the Garcia’s property to plug the meter. A spokesperson later told us the Garcias will no longer be charged for base water and wastewater charges. The city has cleared the $449 bill.
KPRC 2 ‘DRAINED’ Investigation is getting results for Houston homeowners
That brings the total amount we have saved Houston water customers over the last nine months to $46,785.96.
We have forwarded five other customers who say they have also been paying a monthly base fee for water meters that are not attached to any home or structure. We asked if these customers should be paying that same monthly charge even though there are no homes attached to the meters.
Houston Public Works Director of Communication Katelynn Burns replied by email.
“We highly encourage Houston Water customers to reach out directly to Customer Account Services at 713.371.1400, if they have any questions or concerns about their accounts. The Customer Account Services team will work directly with the customers to assist them,” Burns wrote.
The city says the current policy is that the meter has to be removed when a home is being demolished in order to close an account; however, they say they are evaluating their internal processes.
We will keep working to help you with any water bill issues you are having.