Problem Solvers help Richmond man astonished by $783 water bill: 'That is their fault, not mine'

Posted at 6:05 PM, Jul 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-15 18:06:21-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Allan Sharrett said the City of Richmond knew his water meter didn't work properly and that he now has to pay for their mistake.

Sharrett reached out to the CBS 6 Problem Solvers after the City of Richmond sent him an exorbitant water bill.

"I said woah, do I have a leak? Is there something wrong underneath my house I wasn't aware of?" Sharrett said.

Richmond water bill 01.png

The Southside Richmond homeowner set up an auto-draft to pay his city water bill so he would never miss a payment.

But, in May, Sharrett checked his bank account and found the city pulled $783 from his account for that month's water bill.

"I was miffed, I can say that. It was surprising and also astonishing," Sharrett said.

Sharrett contacted the city's Department of Public Utilities who he said told him his water meter had been defective since 2019, and improperly reading his water usage.

Richmond water bill 03.png

Therefore, he had been undercharged for three years.

So, the city billed him a lump sum for what they said he owed due to their error.

"If they don't bill you for 3.5 years I feel like that is their fault, not mine," Sharrett said.

The only notification Sharrett said he received from the city prior to the big bill was a letter that said the meter reading on his next bill had been verified and was correct, and the charges and consumption associated with the reading would be reflected on his next bill.

"For them to not tell me ahead of time and then just grab that amount, I wasn't pleased with that," Sharrett said.

Sharrett tried himself to get the city to refund him at least some of the money, and even reached out to a city council person but he never had any success.

"Six weeks went by and I heard nothing," Sharrett said.

CBS 6 Problem Solver Melissa Hipolit contacted the city in early June and again in mid-June. In fact, she contacted them five times total before finally receiving a response Thursday from Petula Burks, the Director of the Office of Strategic Communications and Community Engagement.

She said they were looking into it and understood the customer's frustration.

Sharrett said he got a surprising call from DPU on Friday.

"Today they did credit my account with over $500," Sharrett said. "It's amazing how you get those results when the news gets involved."

Refreshing news for a situation that he said never should have happened.

"I hope it doesn't happen to anybody else because you don't want to look at your bill and see a $783 water bill especially when you've been paying it all along," Sharrett said.

In a follow-up email, Burks further explained the situation.

"Unfortunately, we have a backlog. Backlogs can occur for a variety of reasons, in the case of DPU, we have work orders that are created for various types of work (there are close to 35 work order types). We also have to factor in that for the past two years we have been living in and working through a global pandemic," she wrote in an email. "DPU was and remains committed to public safety, therefore, following CDC guidelines to protect the health and wellbeing of our technicians, our services were limited to emergencies, new customer connections, and restoration of water services. With much of the nation moving beyond pandemic controls, DPU is also focused on returning to normal operations."

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