Public Advocate Bill de Blasio took steps today to protect homeowners and businesses from costly overcharges in their water bills, stemming from the City's new Automated Meter Readers. De Blasio announced he will hold hearings to uncover the cause of the unwarranted charges—sometimes adding up to tens of thousands of dollars for a single homeowner. The Public Advocate has also put forward new legislation requiring an inspector to be dispatched automatically when a water bill shows a dramatic increase, and to prevent the City from putting liens on property while a customer appeals his or her bill.
“The denials out of City Hall are getting less believable by the day. We know bill disputes are up, we know DEP is out hiring new inspectors it shouldn’t need, we know homeowners are getting bills that defy explanation. New Yorkers need answers from the Administration, and we are going to get them,” said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.
“These meters only seem to be more accurate when it comes to raising the bills of NYC homeowners,” said Council Member Mark Weprin.
“The City’s meter ‘upgrade’ isn’t meant to help homeowners. It's meant to drain even more of their hard-earned money,” said Council Member Dan Halloran.
De Blasio has received 400 constituent complaints regarding inflated water bills. The hearings announced today will investigate the root cause of erroneous billing increases that followed the installation of an Automated Meter Reader. Residents and business owners who have received unwarranted bills will have an opportunity to testify.
Public Advocate de Blasio has also put forward legislation to protect New Yorkers from unfair charges.
The three pieces of legislation announced today will:
- Prevent the Department of Environmental Protection from putting a lien on a home until after the appeals process has concluded. Customers would no longer be forced into paying an unwarranted bill for fear of losing their home.
- Automatically dispatch an inspector to rule out technical problems when a bill increases by more than 100%, following the installation of an Automated Meter Reader.
- Streamline water bill language so that customers can easily determine whether they have been overcharged.
De Blasio released a Red Tape Report in April documenting widespread reports of erroneous bills resulting from Automated Meter Readers. The new readers wirelessly transmit data on a home's water use directly to DEP, instead of requiring a visit from an inspector to read each individual meter. DEP has refused to acknowledge any problems relating to the new technology.
Read the original report at: advocate.nyc.gov/redtape