Richmond homeowner seeks credit after overpaying water bill for years
RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) -Friends of a Richmond homeowner call 12 On Your Side after they say he spent years overpaying for water.
They say Tony Fernandez was only given a one-time credit after the City of Richmond determined there was a water meter issue and fixed it.
Fernandez has owned a home on the corner of Belmont Avenue since 2014.
“The bills have been really high, and I just didn’t know because I never paid bills before, so I just kept paying them until someone [my neighbor] Mark told me that I was paying too much,” he said. “If I hadn’t let them use the water, I would have never known how would have just keep paying it.”
His home is near a bus stop, and Fernandez says a neighbor asked to plant flowers in front of his house to beautify the area. He also asked to use Fernandez’s water to water the plants. He was happy to say yes.
In a letter to NBC12, Fernandez’s friends described how with the help of the neighbor who planted the flowers, Fernandez discovered his water bill was unusually high.
“In early 2021, Tony was concerned about his water bill. He showed it to [his neighbor] Mark, who was surprised by how very high it was compared to his and that of other people in the neighborhood,” explained Loretta O’Donnell, Fernandez’s friend. “Mark called the Richmond Department of Public Utilities on Tony’s behalf. He told them that Tony’s monthly water bill was running over $400. The next month Tony’s water bill showed a small credit. When billing resumed, the amount being charged each month was almost $300 less.”
Fernandez says after he and his neighbor contacted the City of Richmond, the meter was adjusted, and the city determined the issue was on its end and not his. His monthly bills went from $300-$400 to $100 or less. Fernandez was given a one-time credit of $184 from the City of Richmond.
“I got some money back, and I thought they were going to give me more than that because of the amount of time that the meter wasn’t right,” he said.
His friends reviewed water bills that Fernandez had kept for the last several years, comparing the bills he used to pay with what they have been since the meter was fixed. They calculated an estimate of how much they say he may have been overcharged:
From Aug 2021 to May 2023, monthly water bills averaged $100.
Tony has been overcharged an estimated $28,300 from May 2014 to June 2021 because of the faulty water meter.
7yrs X 12mo./yr. X $337/mo. overcharge= $28,300.
The On Your Side Investigators reached out to the City of Richmond Department of Public Utilities, sharing the document created by Fernandez’s friends and asking the following question: If Mr. Fernandez has spent years paying a water bill of more than $300, and it was determined to be an issue with city equipment/infrastructure, is there more recourse than a one time credit for him?
A DPU representative wrote back that the agency would look at the account and be back in touch. 12 On Your Side is still waiting for a response.
Fernandez hopes his story reminds others to pay close attention to their utility bills and say something if they do not seem right.
“Look at [your] bills more. Of course, I didn’t,” Fernandez said. “If they look at their bills and they question it, they should call to the city as soon as possible.”
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