Houston Water Bill Crackdown
Posted by Government Affairs
on Thursday, May 03, 2012
The City of Houston announced today that it will begin enhanced collection tactics in dealing with properties that have delinquent water bills. Multifamily rate payers will have a two week grace period, before being turned off as part of the enhanced collection effort.
The full press release from the City is included here:
City of Houston Launches Enhanced Effort to Collect Delinquent Water Payments
Customers Face Loss of Service
Effective today, the Houston Department of Public Works and Engineering (PWE) has started an enhanced effort to cut off water service to commercial customers with seriously past due water bills. Similar action will follow in two weeks for multi-family and residential property owners who do not pay off their delinquent accounts. More than 22,000 city water customers are more than 200 days past due on their water bills. The number of days past due averages 231 and the total amount due the city exceeds $13 million.
“We started increased termination of water service to delinquent commercial customers this morning, but will provide a two week grace period to allow multi-family and residential property owners one last chance to make good on their past due accounts and avoid loss of service,” said Mayor Annise Parker. These customers have been notified repeatedly that their accounts are past due. It is not fair to our customers who pay on time or fiscally responsible for me to allow this situation to continue.”
An analysis of payment trends found that there are a significant number of customers who only pay their bills when they believe they are nearing the point of losing service. This is evident in the number of accounts delinquent for more than 52 days (the minimum delinquency before the city can legally cut off service. There is anecdotal evidence in the phone calls to the PWE call center from citizens wanting to know how long they can delay payment before service is disconnected. Based on collections to date, delinquent charges are nearing record levels for this year. In 2011 there was a nearly 18 percent increase in delinquencies as compared to 2010. The enhanced collection effort is aimed at reversing this downward trend.
PWE has hired temporary customer service staff to assist with service suspensions, to help with the increase in payment activity anticipated as a result of the enhanced collection effort, and also to quickly turn service back on once the payments are processed.
The city offers assistance to eligible senior citizens, the disabled and low income single-family homeowners who are financially unable to pay their water bills. There is currently more than $107,000 available in the WATER fund. A total of 1,530 customers have been assisted in the city’s current fiscal year.