Have you ever had to fight an electricity or water bill?
Donna Hoffman knows how tough it can be. The Tempe resident had been paying less than $100 a month for water. Then, she got a bill for $1,100.
The bill said Hoffman used more than 200,000 gallons-- enough to fill her pool 13 times.
Hoffman checked for leaks, asked neighbors and found nothing.
The City of Tempe Water Utilities Department did lower her bill. They billed usage at a lower rate, cut the bill in half and replaced her meter. They also had the old meter tested and said it had no issues.
But Hoffman said that she didn't use the water and let me know.
We went to Marilyn DeRosa, the deputy director of Public Works for Tempe's Water Utilities. She wouldn't talk about Hoffman's case individually.
The department would not let me take the meter to be checked by someone else, but they said they would allow consumers to hire another company to check the meter-- that's if the meter stayed in the department's custody and the customer paid for the test.
DeRosa said that during her 20 years in the industry, three years in Tempe, she's never seen a meter test indicate a meter problem. Usually, she says, the problem is with a leak on the property that may or may not have been corrected.
DeRosa said she's never found the city at fault for overcharging. She did admit there have been human errors discovered in meter-reading, but that those errors are caught before the bills go out. She also said meters will soon be read electronically, cutting out the human error possibilities.
Hoffman said that there is no appeal process since no one seems to regulate customer issues involving city water supplies.
If you have a private water company, the Arizona Corporation Commission does regulate them and you can file a complaint here.
And there is an easy way to test for leaks at your home. Click here to see directions from the city of Chandler.
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