Houston family stunned by nearly $24K water bill following city's replacement of faulty devices

Chaz Miller Image
Wednesday, May 10, 2023
'She freaked' Houston couple shocked by $23K water bill increase
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"You get this bill, and it's like, what do you do?" Ricardo Naranjo said after the city warned of high bills when devices used to send water usage data were replaced due to underreporting.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A family in Houston's Sagemont area contacted ABC13 following receiving a water bill for nearly $24,000 from the city last month.

That same bill, which states they had no late fees, indicated their previous month's bill was a little less than $140.

"My wife saw we had this $24,000 bill," Ricardo Naranjo said. "She started freaking out."

The exact total of the bill is $23,685.23

"You get this bill, and it's like - what do you do?"

This comes on the heels of last week when the City of Houston Public Works Department tweeted that customers in west Houston could be experiencing water bills thousands of dollars higher than what they're accustomed to paying.

RELATED: Dysfunctional device causing massive, incorrect water bills in west Houston is part of bigger issue

A public works spokesperson told Eyewitness News the device that sends water-usage data to the city's automated billing system had recently been replaced in 500 homes in that area, and that a potential manufacturer-based glitch in the new devices was to blame for higher bills.

They reversed their stance early Monday, saying the old devices were underreporting the amount of water those homes were using, and the new ones were sending the correct amounts back to the city.

They said they were investigating how those usage amounts could result in swings worth thousands of dollars to customers.

At this point, it's unknown what caused the giant bill for the Naranjo family, but he said he and his wife did call public works, and a technician came out to investigate.

Naranjo said a neighbor notified him that the city was at his home, so he came to talk to the technician to prove there was no leak inside his house.

"He had already told the city we had a leak," Naranjo said. "He had to call them back and tell them there wasn't a leak."

RELATED: Not an April Fools' joke: April 1 marks water rate increase across Houston

Remember, a leak in someone's home wouldn't be the city's issue to repair.

ABC13 asked the City of Houston about Naranjo's side of the story, but they told us a state confidentiality law would require us to jointly complete paperwork with the family to obtain the information on what services have been performed at their home in recent weeks.

The Naranjos have that document and are reviewing it as they continue to wonder how their bill was so high.

"(The city) just said they're going in to investigate it," he said. "The last thing they told my wife is that we have to call back in 30 days to find out what is going on."

The public works department said they should have more information, though much of it hinges on that form being filled out.

RELATED: Outrageous water bills won't have to be paid, Houston city officials say

They also said they're working to make a department official available for an interview with ABC13.

Public Works said you need to call their account services team at 713-371-1400 or notify them online at the Houston Public Works website if you believe your water bill needs to be corrected.

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