He hasn't lived in Richmond for almost a year. The city charged him $800+ for water.: 'This is ridiculous'

Posted at 6:03 PM, May 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-23 18:03:09-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- After almost a year of headaches dealing with Richmond's Department of Public Utilities, Brian Alden rated his customer service experience with the city.

“Can I go in the negative? Negative 10," Alden said. "Because I mean, nothing has been solved or fixed, and it's been an ongoing issue."

In July 2022, Alden moved out of his Richmond City home and into Goochland County.

He asked DPU to close his account.

Alden said DPU told him they would send someone to his house in July to handle business, but Alden said they never showed.

“So I called them up and they were like, 'Oh yeah, we didn't have anybody to send out there due to covid,' or whatever the case was. That's the excuse they gave," he said.

Brian Alden
Brian Alden

Month after month, Alden kept receiving bills from DPU.

He said he called DPU constantly and during the times he got through to an agent, they told him not to pay the bills and that the issue would be resolved by the winter.

“I don't know if you've ever called the helpline or tried to get somebody on the phone from the City of Richmond, you could be sitting on the phone for hours," Alden said.

In December, he received a bill that said, "final bill." But it wasn't the final bill. They kept coming.

The charges now indicate that he owes more than $800 for services he hasn't used.

“This bill was in May," Alden said, picking up his latest bill. "I believe it was due on May 18, and they say that I owe them $841.77 for a house I haven't lived in since last July."

800 dollar bill

While he laughs it off, he does have some serious questions, like what if he gets sent to collections?

“That’s my biggest concern and worry. Not to mention, also, is it going to start affecting my credit score?” Alden said.

CBS 6 passed along Alden's information and concerns to a DPU spokesperson and is waiting on a response.

Alden isn't the only person who has had issues with DPU.

In March, an audit found that DPU's billing system and policies were outdated and that the department was in need of additional oversight and accountability processes.

At the time, DPU Director April Bingham acknowledged the department's struggles.

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“It is my number one goal to ensure that customer satisfaction is delivered, and I get that we're not doing that as often as we'd like," Bingham said during a March interview with CBS 6.

She said DPU was facing some staffing challenges. For example, she had staff vacancy rates higher than 50% for customer service agents and field technicians.

CBS 6 asked if there's been any recent improvements to staffing levels and is still waiting to hear back.

At the time, Bingham made a promise to sort out any customer's billing issues in a more timely fashion.

“Our commitment to the public is that we will address those and resolve those within one to three billing cycles," Bingham said in March.

Alden said that hasn't turned out to be true, at least not for him.

“This is just getting to be ridiculous. No one I know does business like that," Alden said.

A department spokesperson told CBS 6 that DPU has made "great improvements" recently to customer service and will provide more details at a later time.

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