Friday, June 22, 2012

Big Apple Homeowners: We're Gettin' Soaked By New Automated Water Meter Readers! Say They're Being Forced To Flush Away Cash To Dodge Lien Foreclosure

In New York City, the Daily News reports:

  • Maybe water is liquid gold. The city is on pace to collect a record $3 billion in water bills this year — even as the amount of unpaid invoices has soared to $582 million, the Daily News has learned. The sharp uptick is a 30% spike from the $2.1 billion collected from homeowners and businesses in 2008, according to data obtained via a Freedom of Information Law request.

  • But as the city touts the increased revenues, homeowners are complaining they’re getting soaked — and the new automated water meter readers are at the center of the controversy. The new devices, which cost $252 million to develop and install, are meant to more accurately measure the amount of water each household uses.

  • However, those who feel like they are flushing away their cash believe the meters are full of massive inaccuracies. Sonia Bender said her bill suddenly went from $500 to $700 up to $7,000 after an automated reader was installed in her three-floor Harlem building in 2009.

  • The home health aide hired a plumber to check for leaks at the beauty parlor and 99 cents store she rents to on the ground level. Nothing was found.

  • As her appeal was pending, the city put a lien on the place and threatened to foreclose on the property due to $19,000 in outstanding bills, forcing her to enter into a payment plan. Yet her bill continues to fluctuate wildly, with her latest three-month charge totaling $517.

  • There has to be something wrong,” she said. “They say I used 1,000 gallons of water over a seven hour stretch last month but the beauty parlor was closed that day.”

  • Many feel Bender’s frustration: 10,266 customers officially disputed their bill last year, up from 7,788 in 2008. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio says the city is picking on the little guy. “We have homeowners facing foreclosure because of these botched bills,” de Blasio charged.

  • We need to stop these liens and runaway charges now — and that starts with the city fessing up to the problem,” added de Blasio, a 2013 mayoral candidate.
For the story, see Daily News finds city collects millions more in water bills (Nearly $3 billion in water fees are expected to be collected this year, but many customers complain of higher charges stemming from new meters).

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