City Doesn’t Believe Man About Suspicious $800 Water Bill, Now He Owes $76,000

A New Jersey man says that when the water bill on his rental property jump from an average of $200 to $800 in a single billing cycle, the city said nothing was wrong, leaving him to chalk it up to a careless tenant who must love long showers. But no non-whale tenant in the world could explain how his next bill soared up to $76,000.

The man tells the South Jersey Times that the previous $800 bill had originally been flagged by the city for investigation. The city later determined that the amount, even though it was four times higher than the bills had been for this property in the past, was accurate.

Three months later, the property owner gets his next quarterly bill. This one is 95 times the size of the last bill — $76,052.40.

The homeowner says he had been paying around $1,000/year for water service to this property, meaning he is being charged for 76 years’ worth of water in only three months.

“I’ve been telling them there’s something wrong, and they’ve been telling me no,” he explains to the Times. “Well, there’s definitely something wrong now. I don’t think you can dispute this one.”

It’s possible this is a computer glitch, a meter issue, or a massive leak that has yet to make itself apparent. These are all things that one would think the city would want to figure out and resolve ASAP. Sadly, our experience with covering these sort of water billing mistakes is that the city or utility company will drag its feet and become incredibly defensive.

For example, there was this Atlanta resident in 2012 whose monthly water bill started climbing up from less than $100 to $500 to $758 to more than $1,100. The city sent out a leak-detection expert who found nothing, but her bill suddenly dropped back to $175… before being hit with a new $6,700 bill a month later. All the while, the city insisted that everything with her meter was fine and that it would take weeks, maybe months to work through the process of determining whether this was an error or if she was secretly operating a Sea World in her basement.

Then there was the NYC resident whose bill skyrocketed from $62 to $1,400 after the city installed a new meter. Rather than come out and check on this obvious mistake made by its own employees (or a manufacturer’s equipment error), they wanted to charge the homeowner $180 just to have her case reviewed.

And last year, a California woman was billed for $2,700 worth of water, nearly 50 times larger than her average monthly bill. Even after the local media caught onto her story, the city would only knock her bill down to around $500.

You can now follow Chris on Twitter: @themorrancave