Utility Customer Service

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1 Utility Customer Service NEW CHANGES TO CHAPTER 47 WATER & WASTEWATER ORDINANCE PROVISIONS Chapter 47 of the City Code of Ordinances regarding Water and Sewer services has received its first major overhaul in 40 years. Our goal was to enhance and improve customer service, allocate costs to those who use specific services, and increase the department s ability to collect charges for those services. The cost of doing business has also significantly increased over the past 20 years; however, fees for specific services have not. We also recognize that the cost of living in general is increasing; therefore we have expanded those categories of customers who are exempt from late payment fees and increased the financial assistance available through the W.A.T.E.R. Fund for those who qualify. The following highlights important changes to our billing and service policies: All City of Houston water meters meet accuracy guidelines of the American Water Works Association (AWWA). If a customer request a retest of a water meter that is within the manufacturer s warranty period or that has been tested within the previous 12 months, the following charges will apply and be billed to the customer s account: (a) Field Accuracy Test (3 and smaller conducted on site) a fee of $25.00; (b) Meter Bench Test (3 and smaller off-site) a fee of $50.00 plus cost of meter and related parts; Large Meter Test (3 and larger) a fee of $ cost of meter. If the meter is determined to be inaccurate or outside of AWWA guidelines, the customer will not be charged. Click here for more information. If water service has been terminated for non-payment and a customer restores water service without the department s authorization, the customer will be charged for water used, a $55.00 fee, plus an additional penalty for each subsequent occurrence. If there is damage to the meter or the locking device, the customer will be charged for the cost to repair or replace this equipment. Theft of water is a serious offense punishable by law. If you request a re-read of your water meter, you may be charged a $10.00 fee. If the re-read shows evidence that the City has made an error or there is a problem with the meter, the customer will not be charged. Click here for more information. Senior citizens, veterans with service related disabilities, and disabled person who meet low income guidelines may be exempt from late payment and meter re-read fees. Late payment fees remain at 10% of monthly charges on non-exempt accounts. Click here for more information. For customers with more than one account, Utility Customer Service reserves the right to transfer account balances from account to another to collect past due payments. Customers who do not pay their bills negatively impact all customers through increased rates. If you have a problem paying your bill, call one of our Customer Service Representatives at before the past due amount becomes unmanageable. Click here for more information. The maximum amount of assistance a customer may receive from the W.A.T.E.R. Fund has increased to $100. You may apply once every 6 months, must meet income guidelines, and submit an application to be eligible. If you qualify and need assistance, call Click here for more information. Water meters, the transmitter and meter box are the property of the City of Houston. You are legally prohibited from removing, tampering with or damaging the meter or other city equipment. You also have the responsibility for keeping the meter free from obstructions, for restraining dogs, and for removing obstacles that a meter reader might encounter at your residence. The fee to restore water service after being turned off for non-payment increases to $30. This fee is also applicable when a new customer at the address fails to make an application for service. Be sure to pay your bill on time. If you need assistance paying your bill, call to avoid interruption in your water service. Click here for more information.

2 The number of billing adjustments for plumbing leaks that will be processed in a 12 month period has been limited to a maximum of two. Eligible adjustments are for loss of water in your water lines resulting from rupture or other defects and exclude faucet leaks. To apply for an adjustment, a sworn written application must be filed with Utility Customer Service within six (6) months of the repair of the defect. Remember to keep your plumbing, inside and out, in good repair. Click here for Application Form and here for more information on Leak Adjustments. If you are a single family residential customer, and have an unusually high bill, you must contact us within 6 months of the high bill to see if you are entitled to an adjustment. The consumption must be in excess of twice your average usage to be eligible for an adjustment. Only one such adjustment will be processed in a 12 month period. If the applicant has not been a customer for a sufficient length of time to determine average usage, the adjustment will be delayed until the department can calculate the average usage. To qualify for an adjustment, a sworn written application must be filed with Utility Customer Service within six (6) months of receipt of the water bill. Click here for Application Form and here for more information on Unusually Large Bill Adjustments. Remember, you can now pay your water bill online at

3 Sec Testing meters; adjustments to bills. (a) In case any consumer of water questions the correctness of a city water meter, he may obtain a test thereof upon written request therefor to the department. The customer may additionally request that he be permitted to be present at the removal and testing of the meter in person or by agent. (b) Upon the receipt of a written request therefor the city shall cause the meter to be thoroughly and accurately tested. If the party complaining of the meter has requested that he be present for the removal and testing of the meter, he shall be given reasonable notice of the time thereof and be afforded the opportunity to be present and participate therein. Section 29. That Subsection (c) of Section of the Code of Ordinances, Houston, Texas, is hereby amended to read as follows: (c) All meters must meet the accuracy test guidelines of the American Water Works Association. The department shall adjust customer bills for up to 24 months on the basis of results of tests performed by the department. If the meter or register is defective, the department shall repair or replace it. If a meter is damaged so that it cannot be tested, the customer s account may be adjusted for up to 24 months based on the average usage. Section 30. That Subsection (d) of Section of the Code of Ordinances, Houston, Texas, is hereby repealed. Section 31. That Subsection (e) of Section of the Code of Ordinances, Houston, Texas, is hereby redesignated as Subsection (d) and amended to read as follows: (d) When the department retests the meter at the request of the customer, the department shall bill the customer for the cost as follows: (1) If a customer requests that a meter be tested that is within the manufacturer s warranty period, and such meter when tested is accurate under the American Water Works Association guidelines; or (2) If the department has tested the meter within the previous 12 months, and such meter when retested at the request of the customer is accurate under the American Water Works Association guidelines, then the department shall charge the customer: For field testing of meters less than three inches: $25. For bench testing of meters less than three inches: $50 plus cost of the new meter and related electronic devices. For bench testing 3 inch and larger meters: $170 plus cost of the new meter.

4 Section 32. That Section of the Code of Ordinances, Houston, Texas, is hereby amended by adding a new Subsection (e) to read as follows: (e) If the department re-reads a meter at the customer s request, and the reading verifies that the department s original reading was correct (equal to or greater than the prior reading), the department shall charge the customer a fee of $10. Provided, however, that exempt senior customers, disabled veterans and persons with disability are exempt from this fee.

5 Sec Potable water bills; charge for late payment (b) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a), late charges shall not apply to governmental customers (unless provided by contract) and exempt senior customers or persons with a disability who meet the requirements for recipients of the city s W.A.T.E.R. Fund as provided in chapter 36 of this Code. As used in this subsection, the term governmental customer means the United States, the city, and the state including its agencies and political subdivisions. As used in this subsection, the term exempt senior customer means any customer who: (1) Is at least 60 years old; (2) Is a residential customer occupying the entire premises for which exempt senior customer status is requested; and (3) Has filed with the department an application for exempt senior customer status using the form prescribed by the director.

6 Sec Notice of water termination of multifamily residential customer. Section 24. That Section of the Code of Ordinances, Houston, Texas, is hereby amended by adding a new Subsection (g) to read as follows: (g) In order to collect past due payments, the utility official may transfer account balances from one account to another for customers with more than one account (including accounts for different properties), but the utility official must give written notice to the customer.

7 Sec Special and general purposes. The W.A.T.E.R. Fund shall be administered and managed for the purpose of assisting certain elderly residents whose incomes meet the below specified criteria, persons with disability, and certain other residents for payment of city water and sanitary sewer bills (excluding deposits, fees, tap, meter and related service installation charges) in accordance with the administrative procedures set forth in chapter 46 of this Code. Eighty percent of the funds shall be available foe assisting the elderly on fixed incomes, five percent shall be available for assisting persons with disability, and the remaining 15 percent shall be available for assisting certain other residents meeting the criteria set forth below. (In the event one or more of these classes do not exhaust their percentage allowance within a six-month period, excess funds available may be assigned to the remaining class or classes.) Recipients of the assistance must be single-family residential customers as defined in section of this Code who meet the qualifications set forth in this section below. Once a recipient has received benefits from the W.A.T.E.R. Fund in the sum of $100 the recipient shall not be entitled to any further benefits there from until a period of six months has expired. The city shall give assistance under this program based on the date of initial application in the order that the applications are actually received at the processing locations designated by the city. The city shall determine whether an applicant qualifies for assistance based on the criteria specified below. City water and sewer service must be provided in the name of the applicant who must reside at the property. All residents of the household must be listed on the application along with their income. (1) Elderly residents. Elderly residents otherwise eligible under this section may qualify for assistance if: a. They are at least sixty years old. b. Their monthly household income, when adjusted by subtracting all medical bills for the month not reimbursed by insurance or Medicaid, is less than or equal to the current year s poverty guidelines applicable to their size of family unit as promulgated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or its successor agency. (2) Person with disability. Person with disability shall mean a person: a. Who has a presently existing, medically determined physical or mental impairment of a chronic or permanent character that substantially limits one or more of his or her major life activities; or b. Whose monthly household income, when adjusted by subtracting all medical bills for the month not reimbursed by insurance or Medicaid, I les than or equal to the current year s poverty guidelines applicable to their size of family unit as promulgated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or its successor agency. (3) Low income residents. Other residents who are otherwise ineligible under this section may qualify for assistance if their monthly household income is less than or equal to 100 percent of the current poverty income guideline amount applicable to their size of family unit as promulgated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Preference shall be given to those who have met the guidelines for at least three months or more. (4) Ineligibles. Any resident who is an active city employee or whose household includes a city employee shall not be eligible for assistance from the W.A.T.E.R. Fund.

8 Sec Termination of service for failure to pay. (c) When the water supply to any property or premises of a customer has been disconnected or otherwise terminated by the department for failure of the customer to pay any water charges due and owing to the city, the water service to that customer at the affected property or premises shall not be resumed until and after all delinquent charges have been fully paid and satisfied, or satisfactory arrangements have been made with the director to pay such delinquent bills, and the delinquent customer has made any required deposit with the department. Whenever an umbrella account established under section of this Code is delinquent, water service to each meter under that account may be terminated by the department in accordance with this subsection. (d) The department shall charge the customer $30 as the cost to restore water service after termination for nonpayment or, in case where there is a new tenant at the service address, the failure to make an application.

9 Sec Adjustment of bill as result of defect in customer s line. (a) Any residential, commercial, multifamily or outdoor customer of the city may request a correction of any water bill showing excessive usage due to a loss of water through an excusable defect in the customer s water line for a period not to exceed three consecutive months. In order to apply for the correction the customer must file a sworn written application with the utility official within six months of the repair of the excusable defect. Customers may apply for no more than two such adjustments in any 12-month period for any one account. Such application shall contain the following matters and such other information as the utility official may require: (1) The name of the applicant, the address or description of the property or premises furnished water, the bill which is sought to be corrected, the date of the bill and the period of water usage covered thereby. (2) A statement of the date on which the excusable defect in the applicant s water line was discovered and the date on which it was repaired; and a statement that water was lost through the city water meter serving such property and that such water was not used in any manner by anyone. (3) A written acknowledgment that the applicant makes the statements shown on the application and swears to their veracity for the purpose of inducing the city to grant a reduction in the amount of the water bill for which a correction is requested. (4) The application must show whether or not there has been any additional water consuming devices placed in use on the applicant s premises during the period covered by such bill. (5) Documentation shall be submitted detailing the exact nature and date of repairs to the applicant s water line. (6) A statement that the applicant is personally familiar with all of the matters of facts stated in the application and sworn to therein, that they are made on his personal knowledge and that they are each true an correct. (7) The customer shall execute a statement setting forth an understanding that the application is a government record subject to criminal prosecution for false statements under chapter 37 of the Texas Penal Code and shall state that the applicant certifies that the application contains no false statements. As used in this section the term excusable defect shall mean a rupture or leakage of the customer s water lines as may be caused by freezing weather, settlement, corrosion, wear or accident. The term does not apply to defective or out-of-repair faucets. (b) Applications under this section shall be made on forms prescribed by the director of public works and engineering. (c) Upon receipt of a properly completed application, the utility official shall review such application, and if he approves the same as being in compliance with this section, the applicant s bill shall be corrected by applying to the amount of water consumption shown thereon in excess of the applicant s average water usage, a rate of charge equal to one-half of the normal rate of such water usage by a customer in the applicant s classification, which reduction in rate shall be accomplished in the following manner: (1) The applicant s average usage shall be determined as set out in section 47-61(b) of this Code. If the applicant has not been a customer for a sufficient length of time to make such determination, the department shall hold the adjustment for a sufficient period of time to calculate the average water usage. (2) From the total water consumption shown on the bill submitted for correction, the average usage will be deducted. The resulting figure will hereafter be referred to as excess usage. (3) The excess usage will be considered consumption beyond the average usage, and one-half of the regular rate for consumption beyond the average usage (for customers in the applicants rate classification) will be applied to the excess usage and this will determine the amount the applicant must pay for the excess usage. (4) The regular rate for customers in the applicant s rate classification will be applied to the average usage and this amount will be added to the amount due for the excess usage and the total of those two amounts will be the amount that the applicant must pay for water usage during the period covered by the corrected bill. (5) Provided, however, for multifamily residential customers that have established umbrella accounts, average usage and excessive usage under this section shall be determined with reference to each customer meter rather than the entire account as billed by the department. (d) If the applicant has already paid the bill for which an adjustment is authorized under this section and the adjustment is no more than six times the applicant s average bill, the department shall credit the applicant s account the amount of the adjustment to be applied to the charges thereafter accruing. However, if the adjustment is more than six times the customer s average bill and the customer requests a refund, or the applicant can show extreme economic hardship to the utility official, the department shall refund the amount of the adjustment. The utility official shall determine whether extreme economic hardship exists. If an applicant discontinues water service before subsequent charges have depleted the credit, the department shall refund to the applicant at the time of discontinuance the remaining credit balance minus any overdue debt the applicant owes the city. (e) A determination by the utility official of the amount of a correction to be made in an applicant s water bill in accordance with the provisions of this section shall be final.

10 Sec Adjustment of unusually large bill. (a) Any single-family residential customer who receives a water bill for any given month that is greater than 200 percent of the average usage of the customer, the customer may request an adjustment of the bill in the manner provided in this section. Provided, that the customer must make an application within six months of receipt of such bill and only one such monthly bill out of any 12 consecutive monthly bills may be adjusted under this section. If the applicant has not been a customer for a sufficient length of time for the department to determine average usage, the department shall delay the adjustment until it can calculate the average usage. In order to request such an adjustment, the customer must file an application for the adjustment on a form furnished by the utility official. The application form shall contain a statement setting forth an understanding that the application is a government record subject to criminal prosecution for false statements under chapter 37 of the Texas Penal Code, and the customer must state that the application contains no false statements. The application shall identify the bill and briefly state: (1) The reasons for the request for the adjustment; (2) A description of the additional water consuming devices or fixtures, if any, that have been placed in use by the customer during the current month or the preceding 12 months; (3) That there have been no plumbing repairs or necessity therefor during the month for which an adjustment is sought or that the nature of any plumbing defects was not such as would explain the additional usage; and (4) Such other information as the utility official may require. (b) Upon receiving such application, the utility official shall make an investigation to determine if an error was made, which investigation shall include inspection of the customer s water meter for accuracy and review of the customer s billing record. If the initial investigation reveals a billing or meter error, the utility official shall make an adjustment to correct the error. If the investigation does not reveal an error, the utility official may make such further investigation as the utility official deems advisable and shall give full consideration to the statements contained in the customer s application. If the utility official concludes that, in all reasonable probability, the customer was charged for more water than has the customer consumed during the month in question but is unable to actually account for such unusual quantity, the utility official shall recompute the bill using as the gross quantity 200 percent of the average monthly gross quantity applicable to the customer. A determination by the utility official made in accordance with the provisions of this section shall be final. (c) If the customer has already paid the bill for which an adjustment is authorized under this section and the adjustment is no more than six times the customer s average bill, the department shall credit the customer s account the amount of the adjustment to be applied to the charges thereafter accruing. However, if the adjustment is more than six times the customer s average bill and the customer requests a refund, or the customer can show extreme economic hardship, the department shall refund the amount of the adjustment. The utility official shall determine whether extreme economic hardship exists. If a customer discontinues water service before subsequent charges have depleted the credit, the department shall refund to the customer at the time of discontinuance the remaining credit balance minus any overdue debt the customer owes the city. (d) The provisions of this section shall be cumulative of the provisions of section of this Code.

11 CITY OF HOUSTON Public Works and Engineering Department Utility Customer Service P.O. Box 4863 Houston, Texas Account No. Leak Adjustment Request Form Service Address Daytime Phone No. A City of Houston ordinance allows for a Leak Adjustment credit because of loss of water through an excusable defect in the customer s water line. An excusable defect is due to a rupture or leakage caused by weather, settlement, corrosion, wear or accident. Visible leaks such as faucet and hose leaks are ineligible. Credit may be given for one-half of the rate charged to usage in excess of the average. This adjustment is limited to a maximum of three (3) consecutive months and must be requested within six (6) months of the repair. Customers may apply for no more than two (2) leak adjustments in any twelve (12) month period. I,, am the Responsible Party for the account at the above service address. (Give full legal name and/or business identity) I am familiar with all of the facts stated in this document and they are true and correct. Making false statements on this government record is subject to criminal prosecution under Chapter 37 of the Texas Penal Code. I certify that this application and attached documents contain no false statements. I am asking the City of Houston to reduce the water bills for this account, to the extent allowed by city ordinance because of a leak beginning on (date) and repaired on (date). During this period, the following additional water appliances (washer, dishwasher, spa, etc.) were installed at the service address. State NONE if none were added:. The water lost from this leak was not used by anyone. IN ORDER TO PROCESS YOUR APPLICATION QUICKLY & EFFICIENTLY, PLEASE READ THE FOLLOWING CAREFULLY AND GIVE A COMPLETE AND CLEAR DESCRIPTION OF THE REPAIRS. Type of leak on customer s side of meter: Description of repair: Attach documentation of the repair date, address, type of repair, and cost. Acceptable documents include plumber s statement/bill, or a receipt for parts. Businesses with in-house maintenance may submit a statement signed by two (2) employees who witnessed the repair. In all cases, the City retains the right to make field verifications before approving leak adjustments. You will be notified by mail within 90 days whether your request is approved or denied. Print Name: Signature of person requesting a leak adjustment: Date: Complete form and return to Utility Customer Service, P.O. Box 4863, Houston, Texas Leak Adjustment Req Form - ENGLISH Approved by KL

12 CITY OF HOUSTON Public Works and Engineering Department Utility Customer Service P.O. Box 4863 Houston, Texas Unusually Large Bill Application City of Houston, Code of Ordinance, Section allows a single-family residential customer one credit adjustment during a twelve month period for an unusually large bill. The credit allowed is for unexplained usage over two hundred percent of the average usage for the Water/Wastewater account below. Please note: Customers must make application within 6 months of receipt of high bill. If you would like Utility Customer Service to review your account for a possible adjustment due to an unusually large bill, please complete the information below and return form to Utility Customer Service, Accounting Section, P.O. Box 4863, Houston, Texas Please call our Customer Service Center at , if you have any questions. You will be notified by mail within 90 days whether your request is approved or denied. Name (Print account name): Account Number: Day Time Phone Number: Service Address: Date of large Water/Wastewater bill. Number of water appliances or fixtures installed within the last 12 months. List types of appliances or fixtures installed within the last 12 months. Were any plumbing repairs made during the period covered by this bill? If yes, explain. I am familiar with all of the facts stated in this document and they are true and correct. Making false statements on this government record is subject to criminal prosecution under Chapter 37 of the Texas Penal Code. I certify that this application contains no false statements. Signature: Date: Unusually Large Bill Adjustment - ENGLISH Approved by KL rev

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