(WSVN) - We need water, and every few weeks or months you get a nice, reasonable water bill. But how about this one? Four thousand dollars — and you are told, if you don’t pay, you water is cut off. What do you do? Call Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser, of course.
Nicole will never forget the moment when she bought her first house.
Nicole Luster-Sharpton: “To live, to be free, not go by people’s rules or regulations in an apartment complex.”
That was in 2013.
Nicole Luster-Sharpton: “It’s the best move that I have done so far.”
And now it’s 2017.
Nicole Luster-Sharpton: “Being a homeowner kind of sucks!”
The change in feelings came pouring out because of a water leak.
Nicole Luster-Sharpton: “The first water bill came, it was like $160.”
Three months later, the next water bill came in.
Nicole Luster-Sharpton: “It comes from $160 to $550, and I’m like, ‘OK, why is my water going up?'”
Nicole was told by the water department to have a plumber check her house for leaks. He didn’t find any problems — and the high water bills kept coming in.
Then, a few months later, her family spotted water pooling near the water meter.
Nicole Luster-Sharpton: “At that point, my ex-husband lifted it up, and it was filled to the top, and that’s when my dad said, ‘You have a leak.'”
Nicole says a water department employee came out and says the leak was their fault.
Nicole Luster-Sharpton: “And it’s on the North Miami Beach side. They need to fix the issue.”
But the water bills stayed high, $500 to $600 each. Nicole could not afford them — and then got that dreaded final notice.
Nicole Luster-Sharpton: “‘Your water bill is about $4,000, and you have to pay it by the next business day.’ And I was like, ‘I don’t know where I’m going to come up with this money.'”
A $4.000 bill that Nicole does not think she should have to pay.
Nicole Luster-Sharpton: “I’m not responsible for the whole $4,000 bill. I know I’m responsible for something, but not the entire thing.”
Well, Howard, you have a water bill you think is wrong. What can you do?
Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “First, figure out what the problem is. If it’s on your side of the meter, you have to repair it and pay for the lost water. If it’s on the other side, it’s their problem. They have to repair it and credit you for any additional costs from that leak.”
North Miami Beach’s Water Department then sorted things out.
In November 2014, they told us, a private company installed a new meter at Nicole’s home, damaging a connection. Six months later, after Nicole found that water puddling in her yard, the leak was fixed by North Miami Beach. During that six months, the city said, is when the vast majority of the water usage in dispute occurred.
North Miami Beach then deducted $1,000 from Nicole’s water bill. It’s now down to $2,221, and Nicole will be allowed to pay $100 a month to wipe that outstanding bill out.
A nice discount, but Nicole says it not enough.
Nicole Luster-Sharpton: “I felt that I deserved more because it was more of a city issue than it is my issue.”
Howard Finkelstein: “If you don’t agree with their conclusion about the water bill, you can sue in small claims court. But remember, they have your records for years that they base their determination on, so you want to make sure you have proof you are right so you don’t waste time in court.”
Nicole says she is heading to court.
Nicole Luster-Sharpton: “If that’s the case, then I’ll go find a lawyer where I can do a civil suit.”
We get a lot of water bill complaints. Most are caused by two things: a defective meter or a leak on your side. Even a toilet that runs continuously can make your bill soar, so as soon as you get an unusual bill, start checking your house and get the meter checked. Get it resolved quickly.
Problems pouring in leaving you soaked? Don’t wanna drown in your troubles? Contact us. We can’t patch a leak, but we have a solid pipeline to a solution.
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