There are always some people who don’t pay their water bills on time, but the number of delinquent accounts started creeping up last year.
More than 22,000 customers are now 200 days past due. And they owe the city more than $13 million.
Mayor Annise Parker says she has run out of patience.
“This is not going to be a surprise to anybody. Customers have repeatedly been notified that their accounts are past due. And a lot of folks, it’s just a pattern and practice, they wait until we cut off the water and suddenly the check magically appears.”
The city has hired 20 temporary workers who will travel around Houston and physically turn off water.
This will allow the city to triple its shut-off rate, and also turn water back on faster once the bill gets paid.
Parker brandished lists with names of apartment landlords and businesses who owe tens of thousands of dollars.
“Can’t pay or won’t pay, we don’t know the difference. From our standpoint, you use the water you need to pay for the water and we are going to aggressively go after the companies.”
The mayor said last year the public works department had to focus on the drought and the massive number of water main breaks.
Now, she says, it’s time to crack down on people who don’t pay their fair share.
“The trend is continuing and we want to stop it before we get into the summer season and people really do begin to put a drain, a strain on the system, and it is less problematic to cut somebody’s water off. Really in the dead of summer we’d prefer not to have to do this.”
Parker says tenants will get a one-day notice on their doors before a water shut off, but she urged them to check in with their landlords to make sure they’re up to date on the bill.
She also reminded people that there is a special fund to help low-income residents pay their water bills.
To see a list of the most delinquent property owners, visit the link at kuhf.org.