HOUSTON – Got a high water bill you don’t think you owe? You’re not alone. Since last November we have received calls and emails from more than 500 city of Houston water customers who are feeling ‘DRAINED’.
Investigator Amy Davis gets about a dozen emails every week from customers who have received water bills for three to five times the amount of water they normally use. While we can’t investigate every case as quickly as we would like, these are the five things you should do in this order when you get a crazy high bill.
Step 1 - Take your Houston water bill off auto pay
When you get notice of a high bill you should remove the auto payment while the city looks into the issue. It may take the city months to resolve your complaint. If you pay the bill the city will only offer you a credit if they later determine it was inaccurate.
Step 2 - Contact the water department
When you contact the water department to dispute the bill and ask them to review it. You can call, email or start a chat on the water department website. Make sure you take notes and save proof that you contacted the city and the date. Get the names of each person you speak with.
Step 3 - Look at your water usage history
Review your water bill. Was your meter reading estimated? If it was- it should say that on the second page under the reading.
City code says the city is only allowed to estimate your meter readings three months in a row before they must get out there and read it manually. We recently spoke with a water bill customer who received a high bill. He discovered the city estimated his bill for eight out of 12 months. He was getting and paying small bills. But when the water department did get an actual read, they tried to play catch up and stick him with a bill for $3,796.
In February the Director of Public Works Carol Haddock told us she wouldn’t estimate bills for months on end.
Step 4 - Inspect your meter
Go outside to your water meter and write down or take a picture of the reading on your meter. The city looks at the first four digits. It should be close to the reading on your most recent bill if only a few days have passed. If the numbers on your bill and the numbers on your meter match or are close proceed to the next step.
Step 5 - Check for leaks
You’ll need to make sure the high-water usage is not from a leak in or around your home. If you find that you have a toilet leak that may have caused more water usage than normal you should get it repaired. That is the only type of leak the city will not adjust your bill for. If a plumber finds and fixes any other leaks, you can apply for a leak adjustment, so you don’t have to pay that full bill. Here is a step-by-step guide for checking for leaks.
Sign up for high usage alerts
You can get an immediate heads up that you are using a lot of water. The Consumption Awareness Program offers alerts and notifications via Text, Email or Phone. Once you have surpassed your set threshold, you will receive an alert via Text, Email or Phone informing you of the following:
- Your current gallon consumption
- Dates when this consumption was used
- Your current threshold
- Constant flow detection
Learn more about registering here.
Investigator Amy Davis and Producer Andrea Slaydon are working to get answers for many of you who have sent in bill issues. If you need help, email us to be added to our list. We will not stop working until we get answers from the city about the numerous complaints.