Act fast to protest your drainage fee

May 17, 2011 3:59:28 PM PDT
The new Houston drainage fee has gone from a campaign issue to some idea of just how much you will be paying. If you think the bill is too big, you can protest, but you are already running out of time. The drainage fee is based on the impervious surface on your property, but if you think the city over estimated it, you can appeal.

The drainage fee notices are being sent to home owners across Houston and some are finding what was billed as an average monthly charge of five dollars is actually more.

"I couldn't believe what I was reading," said Houston resident Dave Jackson. "They are going to charge me $107 a year."

Jackson rents his home, but like everyone else, he will pay the drainage fee each month in his water bill. Jackson thinks the city may have overstated the impervious surface around his home.

He said, "If I have less than required surfaces, who is to say that it is too much?"

Every city resident has the right to appeal their drainage fee, but they only have 60 days after getting the drainage fee notice to potentially change the amount they owe.

Former Harris County Tax Assessor Paul Bettencourt explained, "If you think the bill is too high, look at your house, look at how big your driveway is, take measurements."

Bettencourt says simply measuring and adding up the square footage of your driveway, home, garage and other structures should give you the exact size of the impervious surface on your property.

"Look at what your bill costs to how much you have and if it is out of whack, protest it," Bettencourt advised. "But you only have 60 days. If you miss the 60 days from what that notice says, you will not be able to protest it."

If your measurements are different from the city's estimate, include your findings in the forms sent to you by the city with your drainage fee notice or submit it online before the 60 day window closes.

Bettencourt suggested, "If you have a high bill, hire a surveyor. That's what they do for a living. And if not, go take measurements of your own property. They know that if you have real measurements, it means they should not be billing you as much."

Remember, the city is using an estimate of your impervious surface based on information provided by the Harris County Appraisal District, so if you think the measurements are wrong, grab a tape measure and start figuring out the actual impervious area. But you need to do it with the 60 days, or you are agreeing to the city's measurements and won't get another chance to appeal the measurements until you add or subtract impervious surface area to your property.

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