High Water and Sewage Bill

(WSVN) - There are very few things we all have to have, but one is certainly water. And if you get a water leak at your place, it can make your water and sewer bill soar — but do you have to pay that incredible bill? It’s why one woman called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

If you have lived in South Florida for a while, you know one thing has just gotten unbearable.

Rosa Gutierrez, sewer bill soared: “Too much traffic.”

Rosa has lived here since she was 5 years old. Traffic is now so bad, she is ready to pack up and head up north.

Rosa Gutierrez: “Goodbye with Hialeah. I’m done with Hialeah.”

Speeding her decision to move to a quieter place, a water and sewage bill.

Normally it’s $300. This one is $3,100.

Rosa Gutierrez: “And that freaked me out.”

Clearly Rosa had a leak. She called a plumber to find it.

Rosa Gutierrez: “He checked the entire house, and he couldn’t find anything inside, so he went outside and found a leak in the driveway underneath the concrete.”

The leak was repaired. Rosa then carefully read her bill from the City of Hialeah. The water portion was around $900.

Rosa Gutierrez: “I’ll take responsibility for the leak, of course.”

But $2,100 of the bill was for sewage, which surprised her.

Rosa Gutierrez: “Has nothing to do with the sewer. It was in the ground. It didn’t go to the sewage.”

Rosa went to the water department to explain the water leak was in front of her house and never went into the sewer line.

Rosa Gutierrez: “I’m not going to pay that bill.”

Rosa says a clerk told her, “You have to pay it,” but she was told the Hialeah Water Department would give her six months to wipe out the $2,100 sewer bill.

Rosa Gutierrez: “I’m totally angry because it’s not fair. I can understand if I used that consumption of sewage. I did not use that sewage consumption.”

Common sense says, if you didn’t use something, you should not have to pay for that, but Howard, does the law use common sense in a case like this?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “Every now and then it does. Rosa has to pay for the water that leaked out, but Hialeah, like many water departments, gives you a credit for sewage if that water does not go into the sewage system, like in this case. So she does not have to pay that entire crazy sewage bill.”

We quickly found out why Rosa had trouble fixing getting her problem corrected. When we called the Hialeah Water Department and told them we were with Help Me Howard, the person who answered the phone hung up on us three times.

We then contacted the Hialeah Mayor’s Office, and give them enormous credit. They fixed things immediately.

Rosa then got the $2,100 sewage bill wiped out.

Rosa Gutierrez: “Somebody called me from the mayor’s office. He was apologizing for everything that happened.”

Howard Finkelstein: “Rosa’s instincts that she should not have to pay that high sewage bill were right. The key is finding the government employee who understands that and will do something to help you. So if it’s not the clerk, contact their boss, then their boss, then their boss.”

Rosa didn’t do that, but she contacted us, and it turned out OK.

Rosa Gutierrez: “I am very thankful to Help Me Howard. I could never have that credit done because they were giving me the runaround.”

We get a lot of calls about water leaks because tree roots and wear and tear inside the house crack lines. If you suspect a problem, get a plumber out as quickly as possible. And then, many departments have forms online to apply for a credit for that leak. Try that. Finally, get the water department to check the meter. They go bad, and if so, you don’t have to pay for that water that leaked out on their side.

Flooded by problems that are draining you? Ready to tap into some help? Contact us. We will be happy to meter, and meet him, too. Wow, that was bad.

Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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