A massive water bill has a Fort Saskatchewan mom worried about how she’s going to pay it.
Miranda Collier is a single mom who works a minimum-wage job. She moved into the rental home in July.
The water bill for the first two months she lived there was $157.91. In September and October it jumped to $2,676.59.
“I was driving home from work and then my landlord called me and she said, ‘Did you get your water bill?'” Collier said, adding the water bill is in the management company’s name.
Collier was charged for 581 m³ of water in two months. The average household uses 20-25 m³ a month.
“My heart sank. I couldn’t believe it,” she said.
The landlord did an emergency entrance to the suite on Oct. 4. after the management company received a call from the City of Fort Saskatchewan to inform them the suite was using an unusually large amount of water.
Collier was told the toilet’s flapper was bent and it was leaking water and that was the cause of the massive bill.
The rental company also did an inspection of the suite in mid-September and found no issues.
“You’d think they’d contact you if your bill reached, $500, $600, $700 even $1,500,” Collier said.
The City of Fort Saskatchewan hired a third-party company to complete an audit in 2016, after a number of complaints from residents.
“There have been some ongoing concerns about the water delivery system and the billing system within the city,” said Troy Fleming, city manager for Fort Saskatchewan.
“We’re working on restoring that confidence,” Fleming said.
The audit didn’t find any issues with equipment or the water system, but made recommendations about implementing a customer-inquiry system, increasing the frequency of water bills and upgrading water meter technology so it can be accessed remotely and more frequently.
Fleming told Global News the city is moving to monthly billing starting in January.
“Instead of getting a bill every second month, now when there’s an issue it will get caught faster,” he said. “We are also looking at ways to upgrade the efficiency of the billing system.”
The city has also added information to its website on conserving water and saving money through water consumption, as well as showing the worst-case scenarios. It shows all of the worst-case scenarios have been leaks.
“This city has had toilets that have actually caused leaks that are in the $3,000-$4,000 range,” Fleming said.
Collier’s bill is in the rental company name, Murray Hill Development, so the city has been unable to deal with her directly on the case.
Although it’s in the rental company’s name, Collier agreed to pay for her water usage when she signed her lease.
Murray Hill Developments operations manager Steve Duiker said they are working with their tenant to come up with a solution with the city after they received a call about the bill.
“I called the city back to find out if there’s any way to help her out,” Duiker said. “They can’t just give her a $2,700 bill and expect to have it paid on whatever day it’s due.”
Duiker said they are also working with Collier to find out if the bill is accurate, but ultimately Collier is responsible for paying the bill.