Trin Nguyen couldn’t believe her eyes when she received an incredible utility bill from the city.
After years of paying her monthly bill, the city demanded more than $33,500 for water and sewage.
“I think it’s outrageous,” she said. “I feel like I’ve been robbed by the city.”
Nguyen’s troubles began on June 8th, when — after years of trying — she called the city to come install a smart water meter on a rental property she owned.
The city employee who came to install the new meter quickly realized that a component was missing for the installation and manually wrote down the numbers on the meter before booking the installation again when he could come back with all the necessary parts.
Two days later, Nguyen received a phone call from the municipal groups informing him of the large bill.
“I think it’s a crime, honestly,” she said. “I don’t think anyone can handle such a bill.”
“Honestly, I thought it was a scam call or something.”
The unfortunate situation is a combination of water leaks that went unnoticed for years and a lack of home ownership, said Mike Voth, the city’s director of business revenue.
For about four years, the property has been on an automatic billing cycle based on estimated use, not actual water use during that time. As soon as the postman in town hit the new numbers, check the difference between payments and actual use.
The culprit appears to be an upstairs toilet that has been leaking for years. Nguyen called a plumber and the small leak was fixed in about 15 minutes.
“It’s really amazing what a 24/7 leakage is, and how much water can be used or consumed in this situation,” Foth said. Over many years, unfortunately, this has been the discrepancy between what was billed and what was paid for and what actually went through the counter and was used. »
Voth said the city has tried to contact the landlord 14 times over the past four years to try and get an actual meter reading. If the reading had taken place at that time, the city could have informed Nguyen of the high usage and potential water leakage.
Voth also said that the city attempted to install a smart meter at the home in 2019 and 2021, but crews were unable to reach the home.
“Over a number of years, unfortunately, yes, that’s the discrepancy between what was billed and paid for and what was entered at the meter and used,” Foth said.
Voth said historical figures for this property show the use of about 50 cubic feet of water per month. Using measurements from April 2022 through May 2023, approximately 530 cubic feet of water was used.
“It’s been increasing about 12 or 13 times every day for a very long time,” Fauth said.
During his first call with the city, Nguyen said he was offered $1,400 a month for the next two years to help pay off his debts. Nguyen refused.
“I’m thinking of calling a lawyer to fight this because I don’t pay for something like this,” Nguyen said. “You know, it’s ridiculous to even think about it.
The city does not plan to forfeit any money owed, Voth said, but added that the city will not shut down Nguyen Water and will still work with residents to pay large bills over long periods.
Voth encourages residents to contact the city and make sure they are among the approximately 70% of homes with smart meters and have any water leaks in their homes fixed immediately to avoid exorbitant water bills.