So what happens when you think you’re being billed incorrectly from the City or Municipality District your multifamily community is located in?
To begin- I will say that it is rare for all parts of your water bill to be wrong. I just don’t see it very often- not to say that it isn’t possible though. What I do see more often is when certain components of the water bill are incorrect. For example: maybe the sewer charge is incorrect or the consumption reported for one of your meters is wrong. Point is, mistakes happen. You know your property better than anyone so if you think your bill may be out of whack, you might not be wrong.
1. I’m not being billed for water.
So your water bill is broken into consumption driven and non-consumption driven charges. Basically a portion of what you pay is based on what your tenants consume and the other portion is normally a flat/tiered fee that functions a bit like a tax towards “capital improvements” in your city. If you are missing one or both of your consumption driven charges (water and sewer) but are being billed for your flat charges/fees (drainage or stormwater in Texas), then there’s a good chance your meter is not being read. In the event that you DO have a meter on property supplying water to your tenants but it is not being read and you are therefore not being billed you need to call the city ASAP. Technically speaking your property has used that water and as soon as the city figures out they’ve not been reading the meter, they’re going to retroactively bill you for estimated consumption amounts. The sooner you call them the better. When you call them, you need to request a meter “re-read”. This will send a technician from the city out to your meter to physically read it. The good news here is that you don’t have to be the only one paying for the city’s mistake (and unfortunately the odds of convincing the city you shouldn’t have to pay a line item that they mistakenly did not put on your bill are slim to none. I deal with this far too often). You can retroactively bill back your tenants for historical consumption. If they were there on property using the water and you’ve got a correct signed water addendum attached to their lease, you can bill them retroactively for historical consumption.
2. I just had my meter replaced and my consumption is out of control now.
This is probably the most frustrating issue that my property partners deal with. The city comes out and replaces a meter on property and as soon as its’ installed the consumption spikes. Historically when we’ve gone to the city to we’re met with “Oh well you must have been getting free water before”. Helpful? No. The best thing to do in this situation is get the city to double check themselves and have a property inspection done. Get your maintenance team (or us if you’re using our program and you’ve recently had a meter replaced) to go inside of each unit on property and check for leaks and drips and for running toilets. Those are sneaky places where the cause of a spike in consumption could be hiding. The second thing you can do and I would encourage you to do is to request a “meter recalibration”. If you request this from the city someone will come out and reset your meter. There’s always a possibility that during the installation of the new meter that it was set to record consumption incorrectly. Requesting a recalibration is an easy way to get it corrected if that’s the case. You can also request a meter reread. Most the time water meters are read via frequency pulses- rarely does someone physically walk to your water meter and write down what they see. If you’re dealing with a crazy spike in consumption though, you can request a human being to come out and read the meter physically.
3. My consumption and cost don’t add up.
You would think that this would not be something that anyone should have to deal with- but unfortunately it is one of those things that is very possible. Your consumption and cost data are both manually entered onto your bill by the city/municipality. Anything that is done via manual entry creates opportunities for human error. An easy way to check and see if your balance is correct and your consumption is in line with the cost reflected is to quite literally calculate what you owe. Your water and wastewater rate structure is accessible online. You can also call the city directly and ask for someone to walk you through how your bill is calculated. Just because the bill is coming from the city does not mean it’s incapable of having errors on it!