Jamie Smith Hopkins
6:00 AM EST, March 7, 2012
What sort of bill starts off at $1,300 and gets slashed to $282? If you live in Baltimore, you probably already know the answer.
Landlord Micah Cohen reported back this week with an update to his water-bill saga -- namely that the big tab he got for an eight-month period wasn't that size merely because the city had neglected to bill in a timely fashion. The new bill is for the same extra-long period but is 78 percent less expensive.
If you've been following the uproar over water bills, you know the city said it was issuing $4.2 million in refunds last month after an audit found that many customers in both Baltimore and Baltimore County were overcharged in recent years. This week the City Council unanimously approved a resolution calling for a two-year halt to including properties in tax sales over unpaid water and sewer bills.
Cohen's experience was even more convoluted because it also involved delayed bills. The city's Department of Public Works attributed that to problems with the meter-reading results that didn't result in immediate new reads, as is supposed to happen.
So the case of the $1,300 bill appears to be closed. But Cohen was also contesting another bill, this one for $384, and was perplexed when he received a second one last week for the same property -- same billing period -- that came to $312. You see, he'd already paid the first bill about a month earlier. And his payment was not reflected on the second bill.
"DELINQUENT," it declared.
"Of course this makes no sense whatsoever," he wrote me in an email.
He said the water-billing employee who's been helping him sort everything out assured him it was a mistake.
"The original over-billed bill was sent to 'adjustments,' and the two bills criss-crossed each other in the process ... and that over-billed account now has a $75 credit on it and I should just ignore the bill I received," Cohen wrote. "All of this speaks to the department as being overwhelmed with post-audit BILLING FAIL. I actually feel bad for the people there who have to clean up this mess."
Have you received a water-bill refund?
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