RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Months after 8News initially reported on a Richmond landlord who received an exceptionally high water bill, more residents are coming forward with similar claims.
Jessica White says her water bill has skyrocketed in cost over the last few months. In October 2021, White says she paid $440, however, the following month — November 2021 — she says she was charged $3,500.
“Maybe it’s just like a typo,” White said. “Once I made the call. It made it real.”
According to White, she received an explanation from the Department of Public Utilities claiming that the $3,000 increase was the result of three years worth of under-charged bills from estimated readings between 2018 and 2021.
“I spoke to the supervisor who told me that it was the difference between the estimated bill and actual bill … and because our meter was broke when the technician came out and fixed it so it wasn’t giving an actual reading,” she said. “There were no leaks and there is no way our bill should be this high.”
Since November 2021, White has been paying her monthly bills — between $400 and $500 each — but the $3,500 bill from November 2021 remained unpaid — and has since accumulated further fees.
White now owes $7,869 for her water bill.
“Once we got the actual meter read they just said it was the difference so we were responsible for it,” she said. “The $3,000 — I don’t feel like it’s fair because where did it come from?”
Upon first hearing of White’s situation, 8News reached out to DPU. They released the following statement in response:
We will address Ms. White’s bills accordingly. In the meantime, we can share that DPU is working through backlogs created by the pandemic. Though we are hampered by higher than usual staff vacancy rates (as with most organizations), we are working diligently to address customer issues in a timely manner and seamless fashion. We can also share that we are exploring new technologies that will drive greater efficiencies into our processes and enhance the customer experience.
Another Richmond resident reached out to 8News in October 2022, reporting that he had received a $21,000 water bill due to a similar situation with estimated readings and a leak that was not discovered until he received an actual reading.
Following 8News’ inquiry, DPU sent White the following email:
On behalf of the City of Richmond Department of Public Utilities, I am in receipt of your billing concern and will work closely with you to resolve the matter.
In the meantime, DPU is working through backlogs created by the pandemic and training several new hires as a result of high vacancy rates in our customer service division (i.e. field and office). It is our goal to address customer issues in a timely manner and seamless fashion. Regrettably, that did not happen in your case. Looking ahead, you have my contact information, please feel free to contact me when needed or share it with others.
White says she is relieved to see some progress.
“I’d just rather it be fair, that’s all I’m looking for,” she said. “I understand I have the rest that’s due. I would just rather it be fair.”