KPRC 2 Investigates: Woman shocked by monster $8,500 water bill

HOUSTON – How much do you pay for your water bill? It may not be something you think much about until something goes wrong. KPRC 2 Investigates a huge water bill that has one homeowner calling the city out for failing to do its job. Our team is looking into why a bill could be so high and what you should do if you get a surprise big bill.

Homeowner gets a huge water bill

Sandie Meyer pays her water bill on time every month. And for as long as she can remember it’s been just over $25 until April when she got a monster bill.

Sandie has lived at Ashford Forest in West Houston since 2002. It’s just her and her son and they don’t own a pool. They shower and wash clothes twice a week, and that’s pretty much it. So imagine her surprise when she got a bill for more than $8,500.

“I said this has got to be a mistake. This is funny,” said Sandie.

But no one at the City of Houston was laughing and Sandie stopped when she received a disconnection notice for failure to pay.

“I cannot pay $8,500. I don’t know a lot of people that can,” she said.

Why would a water bill be suddenly so high?

It took six months for Sandie to get an explanation of why she owed so much. According to the city, since 2014 the electronic recording device on her meter was reporting that Sandie wasn’t using any water. The $25 bills she paid each month just covered her base water and sewer charges, no actual water usage.

KPRC 2 Investigates huge water bill from the City of Houston. (Copyright 2020 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

In April, a meter reader actually went to the meter to do a physical read and discovered it showed Sandie had used hundreds of thousands of gallons over the last seven years.

“I’m not paying an $8,500 bill. It’s not my fault that you guys did not do your job,” said Sandie.

Sandie doesn’t have to pay the full $8,500.

The Houston code of ordinances says public works can’t back-bill for errors more than two years old. But Sandie will have to pay for the water she used over the last 24 months.

Public works now say she owes $1,293.02. A smaller bill but one that she still doesn’t think is fair.

“I should not be penalized for somebody not doing their job,” said Sandie.

How to dispute a big water bill

The same city code says that you can dispute your water bill, but if you do, you need to have proof that shows you did not use the amount of water you are being billed for.

You can read more on the city code and how to dispute it here.

About the Authors:

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