Outrageous water bills and inaccurate meter readings are frustrating. So why are people being left feeling “DRAINED” and forced to pay water bills they don’t owe? More than 200 customers have reached out to the KPRC 2 Investigates team and our work is getting them results.
Changes to your water bills
1. The city will no longer back bill for months on end
Houston Public Works Director Carol Haddock says if the city fails to bill you correctly for water used over several months, even years, the water department will now only back bill you for the last three months. Before they were going back and charging for 24 months.
Here is a statement a City of Houston spokesperson sent to us:
“Customer Account Services has changed that to only going back for the last three months of estimated bills that the city can collect. Carol (Haddock) said CAS would only charge the customers the average usage for the last three months that their bill was estimated.
Customer Account Services experienced a supply shortage in replacing the automatic reading devices. This led to rising demand for manual readings, which resulted in estimated readings. The change is temporary in response to these issues. It is not applicable to long-term meter reading estimates due to a customer’s obstruction of a meter. The City of Houston has a very limited number of meters with long-term estimates due to obstruction. Billing corrections are authorized by City of Houston Code of Ordinance 47-65 Billing errors - in general. The city is authorized to correct billing errors up to 24 months. Currently, Customer Account Services is correcting up to 3 months. As this was an internal process change that is within the 24-month criteria, it did not require an ordinance update.”
2. More staff to help customers with issues
One common complaint we heard from customers is that they struggled to get ahold of the city for help dealing with their water bill questions.
“We’ve been able to bring in 35 additional people to answer phones in January. Our wait time was under 10 minutes,” said Haddock.
3. Bills easier to read
The City of Houston changed the look of your water bill, It’s more obvious if your meter read was estimated
You will now see the word “estimated” on the front page of your bill next to the reading *and* on the second page.
In Houston Public Works Director Carol Haddock’s full interview with Amy Davis, she gives more details about the remote read technology and how it impacts billing.
The city’s water billing problems are far from over. That is why all this week we are shining a light on issues causing our bills and rates to skyrocket, issues the city can fix. Our KPRC 2 Investigates team is focusing on problems that the city can and should resolve.
- And we made a trip back out to that neighborhood that is dealing with brown water. What did the city do after we showed them our water test results?
- See the full program guide for what we have planned this week and also how you can send in your own concerns.