Providing utility audits for community associations, apartment buildings, businesses, commercial properties, cities and park and landscape districts located in California, Washington, Oregon, Montana and Nevada.

HalloweenUtility Horror Tales… "There are more frightening things than goblins and ghouls"

In light of the upcoming Halloween season…. the following stories are just a few of the more horrific tales from the company files.  Since 1989 we have seen the utility companies misread, misbill, miscalculate, mispring, miscount, mistake, misconstrue, misinform, misguide and mismanage – causing untold numbers of utility customers misery.  The really scary thing is that utility mistakes are more common now than before…. and getting worse!


The City That Had No Boundaries….

Our first take begins with an unsuspecting association that paid its utility bills each month for years and years and never questioned the accuracy of those utility bills.  These folks knew that if they did not pay these bills each month, their water, gas, electricity or telephone service would be discontinued.  However, they, like so many other associations, did not really understand how to read or interpret these monthly utility bills.  Furthermore, they trusted their city's utility bills since their city was only responsible for billing a fairly small area – not like the big utility companies that had tens of thousand of customers and were governed by the state.  In fact, the city offices were only a few miles from their association.  Their new manager was not quite so trusting, and asked us to audit their utility bills… 


Therefore, they were doubly shocked when we informed them that their city had been billing them for 'outside city' water rates, which are almost double the cost of 'inside city' water rates!  You see, back in 1972, the city had incorporated this association's section of land into the city's boundaries.  Prior to 1972, the association had been in an unincorporated section of the county and the city offices were located much farther away.  However, when the city had incorporated this new section of the county into the city's boundaries, it had not relayed that information to it's utility department.  It had forgotten to change the utility rates for everyboy in this section accordingly.


Once we informed the city of this little oversight, it took them four weeks to verify their own city boundaries, and another 4 months to correct the water overcharges and refund the association for all water overcharges due to this billing error!  This association views "their" city's utility bills with a much more pragmatic and much less sentimental eye…


The City That Had No Meters…


Our second tale begins with an association that "couldn't have been overcharged because the city billed a flat fee only;  there were no water meters".  Fortunately for this association, the management company's faith in the city's utility billing department was a little less stout than than of the boards…


It was true that, like many cities, this city had started out billing on a flat fee basis.  Every type of customer within this city had its own monthly fees for water and sewer service. (I.e. restaurants, offices, barbers, singly family homes, condominiums, etc.)  However, as the city grew, water meters were installed for all new clients – and for some old clients too.  In this case, the city had installed two water meters for the association's irrigation water, and was billing the association every month for all irrigation water registered by these two water meters. However, the association still received 41 other flat-fee water utility bills every month for its domestic water AND its irrigation water!  That's right!!  The city had never closed the association's two old flat-fee irrigation water accounts after it installed the two irrigation water meters!  Imagine the association's amazement when they found out that they had been paying for their irrigation water not once, but twice every month!


At least this city was a little bit more accomodating and issued a full retroactive refund to the association for all of the double water charges within two weeks. (although it did make the association provide all of the backup documentation for these double water charges, even though it was the city's error!)  Now this association views "their" city's utility bills with a much more pragmatic and much less sentimental eye…


Needless to say, these are just a few of the hundreds of horror stories that we have in our company files, gathered over many years.  It is terrifying to think that utilities are usually the biggest budget item each year, yet these kinds of overcharges continue to occur on an ongoing basis.


You see, there are more frightening things than goblins and ghouls…..  Happy Halloween season!


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