Houston – We listen to your water bill concerns. Dozens of you tell us about your experiences with the Houston Water Department. We’ve heard of phone calls, unanswered emails and little to no communication to explain huge bills that threaten the wellbeing of you and your family.
Our KPRC 2 Investigates team shared stories of making you feel “TRIPED” by inaccurate bills and months of delays to help clients find answers. Now KPRC 2 Investigates explains a client’s last chance to get help and how often it works.
You asked: What can I do if I think my water bill is wrong?
1. Notify water authority, keep records
As soon as you open or see an invoice that appears incorrect, unusually high, or just plain wrong, you should pick up the phone and call and email the water board so you have proof of the date you reported it. This should always be your first step. And keep track of the time, because the next steps are all based on days.
2. Request an administrative review
If you have notified the water board and have not received any replies, your next step is to request a regulatory review. You must do this within 90 days when the invoice you are disputing was issued.
3. The account will be blocked
Once you request a review, your account will be suspended and you will not incur late fees on the invoice you have objected to. Verification can take up to 30 days by the water authority and you will be notified of their decision by email.
4. Still need help? request an administrative hearing
Within 10 days To get that letter, if they haven’t told you what you want to hear, you can request an administrative hearing. Adjusting your hearing might last up to 60 days. If you get one, it will be over the phone with a hearing tester.
We spoke to two customers who went through this process
“I think he was totally biased. He listened, but it was very, very clear that he had made his decision. And I could feel this vibration from him on the phone call that I’m just getting some information from you, but we know what we’re going to do,” said Alicia Gregorio, a hydrologist who was disputing an $18,000 water bill.
“I asked him, ‘Well, are you volunteering or what?’ he said, ‘Oh no, the city is paying me.’ So I wasn’t surprised he voted in favor of the town,’” said another Gladys House water customer.
The city tells KPRC 2 that these hearing examiners are licensed by the Director of Public Works. They’re not city employees, but they’re paid about $50 an hour to listen to these water bill arguments and make a decision.
5. Last step: water adjustment plate
You will receive this decision by mail. And again, if you don’t think it’s fair, you have 10 days to request a hearing before the Water Regulator. This is the only one of these options that is personal. The board consists of three persons appointed by the mayor. They only meet once a quarter.
How often does the water authority decide in favor of the customers?
According to the city, the board heard 48 cases between September 1, 2020 and August 31 this year.
Only in 7 cases did the chamber overturn the decision of the hearing examiner and ruled in favor of the client.
All the resources you need to fight your water bill
View all of our DRAINED research series on Houston water bill issues.
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