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Author: mikeg1382 Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 129272  
Subject: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/16/2003 8:25 PM
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My wife and I just bought our first home back in October, and everything went pretty smoothly. I knew I would be getting a few bills that I did not have to worry about when I was a lowly renter, and yep-I got a sewer bill pretty quick. No problem, I paid it with a light heart. After all, it's MY house now!!!

Today, after I get home from shopping with my now-pregnant wife (our first, thank you very much!) for some much needed maternity clothes, I find a note in the door that says my water service has been shut off. The reason listed? "No billing info available". What the...........?!?
I call the company and, after getting the run around for a few aggravating minutes, I get a real live operator who says I should have known that I had to set up an account with the water utility, and the the old owner had just recently called to close his account. (I guess he had been paying for my water?) When I asked them why they didn't write or call to let me know of the impending shutdown, they replied that it was not their responsibility. Probably right, but I still didn't feel any better.

Good thing is they can make it out tommorrow morning to turn it back on, but my wife now makes a trip to the bathroom every 5 minutes it seems like, and neither one of us showered yet today. Yuck.

I guess the point of this post (beside to rant a little....) is to let any new homeowners out there know that if you don't have a well, you better figure out how you get your water!

Mike in NJ
(Thanks for listening.....!)
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Author: BeenFooled Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30844 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/16/2003 8:45 PM
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"they replied that it was not their responsibility. Probably right, but I still didn't feel any better"

Bunch of bozos if you ask me. I thought there were even (maybe state?) laws that prevented utilities from turning off basic services? I'd say water is pretty basic. I would write them a very nasty note, and copy your state ombudsman or similar public utility overseer.

BF

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Author: millerpim Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30845 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/16/2003 8:49 PM
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It could have been worse. In Minnesota, the water bills run with the property, meaning if the previous owner didn't pay the water bill when you moved in, you are responsible for it. It's sort of an honor system because there's no way for you to make sure the current water bill will ever be paid. You can check to see that it's not in arrears and hold up the closing until the account is brought current, but short of going to court, there is no way to force the previous owner to pay the last month's bill. Some people have been stuck with a previous owner's six-month water bill.

elizabeth

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Author: 2gifts Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30847 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/16/2003 9:05 PM
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I thought there were even (maybe state?) laws that prevented utilities from turning off basic services?

That's only true if your account is coded 'Medical,' and to get that, the doctor or hospital actually calls the utilities and files the information. It means that they cannot turn your utilities off for non-payment and that you are first on the list to get your utilities restored in the event of an interruption of service such as losing power during a hurricane.

I know about this because, unfortunately, we were coded 'Medical' when we brought my then 17-week-old son home from the hospital for the first time after he was born. And what I vividly remember is that 2 days after he came home, Hurricane Bob whipped through Massachusetts leaving us with an infant on all sorts of monitors and oxygen, but no power. Sure enough, we were the first in town to have our power restored, and I remember the phone ringing as my neighbor who was on the same power grid announced 'I love your children!' chuckled, and hung up. It seems the hospital had actually done all the 'medical' coding prior to discharge as one of the criteria for him coming home.

To get taken off the list, you can call and inform them, and no doctor's consent is needed. We eventually did that when the kids were a few years old, and we didn't anticipate any additional problems. I figured they were there for me when I needed them, so I should make room on the list for someone else who really needed to be there.

But there's no law of which I am aware other than that.

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Author: jiml8 Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30850 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/16/2003 10:03 PM
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It could have been worse. In Minnesota, the water bills run with the property, meaning if the previous owner didn't pay the water bill when you moved in, you are responsible for it. It's sort of an honor system because there's no way for you to make sure the current water bill will ever be paid. You can check to see that it's not in arrears and hold up the closing until the account is brought current, but short of going to court, there is no way to force the previous owner to pay the last month's bill. Some people have been stuck with a previous owner's six-month water bill.

elizabeth


In Ohio, water bills go with the property.

A few years ago, I sold a house on land contract. A year later, I took it back when they stopped paying and I had to evict.

I turned around and sold the place outright for cash, within just a couple of weeks. Months pass. I get a phone call from the buyer; seems the City had handed him a water bill for one year, and he wanted me to pay it.

Conference call with the City; "So," says I, "you let the previous buyer of this place go for a full year without paying the bill. Is this your standard practice? I thought you shut them off after 90 days."

"We do, but this time we made a mistake."

Then I said to the buyer: "Didn't you check the water bill before we closed? That's pretty much standard procedure."

He responded: "I checked, but they weren't showing anything past due." Responds the City rep: "It was still listed in the former buyer's name and we made a mistake and didn't have it linked properly to the property."

So I said: "So, the City lets them go on using water without paying, and the City fails to figure it out, and now the City expects me to pay for it??? I don't think so." The new owner also says; "and I shouldn't have to pay for it either."

We had them. City ate it. Rare occurrence indeed.

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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30852 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/17/2003 12:01 AM
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<<"they replied that it was not their responsibility. Probably right, but I still didn't feel any better"

Bunch of bozos if you ask me. I thought there were even (maybe state?) laws that prevented utilities from turning off basic services? I'd say water is pretty basic. I would write them a very nasty note, and copy your state ombudsman or similar public utility overseer.

BF
>>


I worked for a gas utility, and we followed the same policy: it was the customer's responsibility to call for service. The previous customer was responsible for the bill until either the new customer called and took over the account or the previous customer called and ordered the gas shut off.

This policy was approved by the state utilities commission.


I hope this gentleman has already called his electric and gas utility to have these services billed to him or he risks having an even more unhappy wife!


By the way, congrats, dad.



Seattle Pioneer

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Author: koralis Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30855 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/17/2003 1:13 AM
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I guess the point of this post (beside to rant a little....) is to let any new homeowners out there know that if you don't have a well, you better figure out how you get your water!


Hmmmm... you know, now that you mention it I haven't gotten a water, sewer, or trash bill since I've moved in in September. I suppose I need to head down to city hall and figure it all out!



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Author: BeenFooled Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30856 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/17/2003 2:07 AM
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"But there's no law of which I am aware other than that."

Ok I can't point to a law myself, I may in fact be way wrong. BUT, say the gas company cut the line to an elderly lady who's in arrears, and she dies of hypothermia - you can see they just would not do that. The headlines would just be too bad ("Gas company kills old lady because of late payment on $263"). Obviously, that's not going to happen.

BF

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Author: lizmonster Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30857 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/17/2003 9:07 AM
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Hmmmm... you know, now that you mention it I haven't gotten a water, sewer, or trash bill since I've moved in in September. I suppose I need to head down to city hall and figure it all out!

Well, if they're quarterly, you might be getting one soon; but yes, do check it out.

My anecdote: I moved into my first property - a condominium unit in a 5-unit building, with only one other occupant - in October of 1990. Several months later, we received a cut-off notice from the water company, complaining about a bill for > $3000 that had not been paid. We (there were three of us by then) had to cough up the cash - if they turn the water off, they condemn the building.

When I spoke to the water company, they said a) they go by dollar amount owed when deciding to shut off an account, rather than lateness of payment; and b) there was no point in them bothering to put a lien on the property when they had the power to render the building uninhabitable.

(Turns out the guy who'd bought the building ten years before to refurbish it had a history of doing this with the water company. He'd run up a bill - which took a while, since the building was uninhabited until 1988 - and then pay them when he was threatened. A ten-year title search showed he had a tendancy to do that with his property taxes as well.)

-lizmonster

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Author: mikeg1382 Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30858 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/17/2003 9:15 AM
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<<<<<I worked for a gas utility, and we followed the same policy: it was the customer's responsibility to call for service. The previous customer was responsible for the bill until either the new customer called and took over the account or the previous customer called and ordered the gas shut off.>>>>>

You're absolutely right, Seattle Pioneer, and I did call all other utilities. As a former renter and frequent mover, I have a lot of experience calling the power, gas, and phone companies to switch or start service. I have never had a water bill before, and I guess I thought that your taxes pay for the water if you don't have a well. I am not saying that I shouldn't have called them and set up an account (although how I should have known, I am not sure...) but the fact that the company just shut off the water with no notice whatsoever kind of burned me.

They said that they sent several bills to my address, but, after a little nudging from me, admitted that they were in the former owners name. Obviously, those bills got forwarded to his new address and I never saw them. Even had they arrived at my mailbox, I would have returned them to the post office, as it is illegal to open other people's mail.

I like the idea of sending a letter to the State Board of Utilities, but I am not sure what an ombudsman is. I have heard the term, but never checked it out.

Mike in NJ
(P.S. The note they left also stated that a reconnection fee of $23 is charged if service was discontinued. I am thinking they ought to waive that one, what do you guys think?)


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Author: jfruhbauer Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30859 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/17/2003 9:58 AM
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I am not sure what an ombudsman is. I have heard the term, but never checked it out.

A 3rd party arbitrator - I have always heard the term at universities (you have the "Office of the Ombudsperson" prominent in a lot of Student Unions), but I suppose it could be applied outside. Basically you have to go through the ombudsperson and try to settle the prbolem before you go to a lawyer/court.

Jennifer

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Author: jfruhbauer Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30860 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/17/2003 10:09 AM
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I call the company and, after getting the run around for a few aggravating minutes, I get a real live operator who says I should have known that I had to set up an account with the water utility

Mike, it isn't my intention to be mean, but this struck me as something obvious. You have to set up various services and utilities any time you change locations: phone, gas, electricity if you live in an apartment (sometimes more, depends on the local laws) and if you live in a house, you have to add water, sewage and trash (sometimes) to that list.

Anything coming into your house is rarely free. Granted, some people do have wells, but there are other things that you have to consider when you have a well...

As to the reactivation fee: depends, if a person really PHYSICALLY has to come out to your house to reactivate the water service (and I would guess this would be the case), then I think that you are stuck with the fee and just grin and bear it. If it is a matter of throwing a switch down at headquarters (which I doubt, but I wanted to mention it 'cause of the heavy fees phone companies charge for various new and added services), then I say argue against not paying it (you may be stuck paying it anyway if you want to keep water ;-)

Jennifer

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Author: JohnAndLori Three stars, 500 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30861 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/17/2003 11:20 AM
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Mike,

I had a similar problem with my utility company. When I moved into my first apartment, I immediately made the obligatory call to set up my account with them.

Six weeks later, I still hadn't received my first bill. I called to make sure there were no problems and they assured me there wasn't. I specifically said, "I just want to make sure that I don't come home from work one day and find my service has been cut off." Again, I was assured, "No, don't worry. We have you in our system and everything is fine."

Two days later, guess what happened. Right, I get home from work and find service had been cut off. I called and was told that my account had not been set up and that they wouldn't be able to restore service for "about a week".

Needless to say, I was a little upset. (I should have mentioned that the apartment had a furnace with an electric start...and this was happening in February in northern NJ...BBBBRRRRRRR).

After a few choice words with the supervisor, they promised to restore service the next day.

Nothing is EVER easy!

John(andLori)


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Author: reallyalldone Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30862 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/17/2003 11:24 AM
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Mike, it isn't my intention to be mean, but this struck me as something obvious. You have to set up various services and utilities any time you change locations: phone, gas, electricity if you live in an apartment (sometimes more, depends on the local laws) and if you live in a house, you have to add water, sewage and trash (sometimes) to that list.

Every closing I've had, whether I was buyer or seller, has included a discussion of changeover of all of the items listed above. If I was going to cast blame(not that it's appropriate), I'd probably wonder why the realtor/lawyer/title company didn't have the water on a closing checklist.

rad


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Author: IndecisiveFool Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30864 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/17/2003 11:36 AM
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Every closing I've had, whether I was buyer or seller, has included a discussion of changeover of all of the items listed above. If I was going to cast blame(not that it's appropriate), I'd probably wonder why the realtor/lawyer/title company didn't have the water on a closing checklist.

Not only was the changeover discussed, I was given a date that utilities had to be switched or they would be turned off.

IF



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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30866 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/17/2003 12:03 PM
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<<Six weeks later, I still hadn't received my first bill. I called to make sure there were no problems and they assured me there wasn't. I specifically said, "I just want to make sure that I don't come home from work one day and find my service has been cut off." Again, I was assured, "No, don't worry. We have you in our system and everything is fine."

Two days later, guess what happened. Right, I get home from work and find service had been cut off. I called and was told that my account had not been set up and that they wouldn't be able to restore service for "about a week".

Needless to say, I was a little upset. (I should have mentioned that the apartment had a furnace with an electric start...and this was happening in February in northern NJ...BBBBRRRRRRR).

After a few choice words with the supervisor, they promised to restore service the next day.

Nothing is EVER easy!
>>


As I noted, I used to field customer service type calls from customers at a gas utility. I always thought that the customer who had made the proper efforts to established service DESERVED THE SERVICE. If the gas was shut off through some screw up by the utility (which happens sometimes, of course) I made sure that someone was back out the same day to turn it back on again. So I would have saved you from talking to a supervisor.

But that was the company's position as well. And furthermore, it was the position of the state utility commission, who were always willing to flame the utility's behind if they failed to provide service according to the commission's standards.




Seattle Pioneer

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Author: HomeMoaner Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30870 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/17/2003 1:01 PM
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Mike, it isn't my intention to be mean, but this struck me as something obvious.

I'll jump in here.

It is NOT obvious. How would he know if he wasn't told? It happens to me all the time at work, that they assume you know the procedures and then jump all over you because you followed the OLD procedures. When they didn't bother to tell you that the procedures changed three minutes ago. (Ooohhh, don't get me started...)

DW and I just bought our first house a little over a year ago, and I honestly don't remember what went on at the closing. Sign this, sign that, have a seat, want some water? Yak yak yak for an hour or two. You start to phase out a bit. You want to read everything, but people start giving you funny looks and you feel bad because you're holding them up so you trust your agent that everything's OK and you just want to GET OUT OF THERE. So did utilities get discussed? Heck if I know. We got all sorts of important-looking mail for the previous owners, so they obviously hadn't forwarded their mail. Things slip through the cracks.

After renting and not paying a water bill, how would it be obvious? We were left a couple of city-owned trash cans, and all my neighbors have only one. Have I done anything about it? No, but I will when I get an "extra trash can bill."

It's only obvious to SOME people, who have bought houses before. So it wasn't obvious before to Mike, but it sure as heck is now!

:)
HM!

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Author: wjhodgson One star, 50 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30875 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/17/2003 2:23 PM
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Ok I can't point to a law myself, I may in fact be way wrong. BUT, say the gas company cut the line to an elderly lady who's in arrears, and she dies of hypothermia - you can see they just would not do that. The headlines would just be too bad ("Gas company kills old lady because of late payment on $263"). Obviously, that's not going to happen.

BF


This exact thing happens every day in Houston. Most utilities have a charity program where you can pay extra on your bill to help the elderly, disabled and disadvataged. Dont fool yourself, the utility is a business that expects to make a profit.

Bill

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Author: reallyalldone Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30877 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/17/2003 2:36 PM
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This exact thing happens every day in Houston. Most utilities have a charity program where you can pay extra on your bill to help the elderly, disabled and disadvataged. Dont fool yourself, the utility is a business that expects to make a profit.

This is actually a reminder for me but if anyone is responsible(in whatever sense) for someone getter older or someone ill, they can have a duplicate utility sent to another person(at least Xcel offers this option). I think I've had my mother do this but I need to check to make sure we actually did this at some point.

rad


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Author: reallyalldone Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30878 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/17/2003 2:37 PM
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utility bill

although feel free to send a utility to someone if you have that much money :)

rad



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Author: LuluB Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30885 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/17/2003 3:51 PM
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DW and I just bought our first house a little over a year ago, and I honestly don't remember what went on at the closing. Sign this, sign that, have a seat, want some water? Yak yak yak for an hour or two. You start to phase out a bit. You want to read everything, but people start giving you funny looks and you feel bad because you're holding them up so you trust your agent that everything's OK and you just want to GET OUT OF THERE

Wow. We went through everything, practically line by line. Nobody started at us funny, or rushed us. I don't sign anything unless I know what it is, and understand the contents. Sellers routinely make a chart of their utilities, and they mark down the amount of the average bill. We knew when to activate those utilities under our name, etc.

A house is a big purchase. Rushing through closing doesn't seem prudent to me.

BWDIK?

Louise

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Author: mschmit Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30891 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/17/2003 4:35 PM
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It is NOT obvious. How would he know if he wasn't told?

... and I honestly don't remember what went on at the closing. Sign this, sign that, have a seat, want some water? Yak yak yak for an hour or two.


This is the key. For probably 99% of the population (who buy a house) this is the largest financial transaction that they ever have. You would think that it is something to take seriously. I could never understand why the escrow and closing costs were so high...then I thought, it must be because some people spend hours reading the documents and asking important questions.


Mike



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Author: goohsmom Big red star, 1000 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30896 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/17/2003 5:35 PM
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Wow. We went through everything, practically line by line. Nobody started at us funny, or rushed us. I don't sign anything unless I know what it is, and understand the contents. Sellers routinely make a chart of their utilities, and they mark down the amount of the average bill. We knew when to activate those utilities under our name, etc

We did too, plus the sellers asked us if we had already set up service for all the utilities. The closing attorney was very nice to us, even though we had a 6 week old cranky infant with us. The receptionist and admins loved him (said cranky infant, not the attorney), taking turns holding him so we could concentrate on reading through everything. We never felt rushed (guess we were lucky), and didn't feel nearly as drained as most people said we would--I guess we were just too excited about finally owning our own home. In fact, when it was all done, we were kind of surprised, it seemed to be so quick and easy. Although they did have to redo some of the paperwork, since there were some misspellings on the names, but it wasn't much of a fuss.

Pam

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Author: rsprang Big gold star, 5000 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30899 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/17/2003 5:59 PM
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Obviously, that's not going to happen.

When I lived in Arizona, a series of gas meters exploded. The utility knew the meters were defective, but it would "cost too much" to replace them. Several people died and many houses burned down before the city forced them to replace the defective meters.

Never underestimate the foolishness and greed of a commercial enterprise ;-)


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Author: PShaughnS One star, 50 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30906 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/17/2003 10:06 PM
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When my niece and her husband bought their first house last year, they forget to have the gas turned on BEFORE they moved in. Fortunately it was mid-April, but it was still a little difficult cleaning up the kitchen with cold water! We had to bring "bottled" hot water with us!

When DH and I moved into our first house a couple months later, the realtor for the seller gave us a list of important numbers for the new community we were moving into. This included phone company, all the utility companies, various city and county departments (water, sewer, garbage, etc.)even the cable company. Plus our realtor went over everything with us. We were able to get copies of all our closing documents the day before we actually closed. We really lucked out in that we had our own real estate agent, someone we were totally comfortable with and totally trusted.

There is so much involved with buying your 1st home and moving (not to mention expecting a baby) it helps to have someone else there to remind you what needs to be taken care of.

Congrats, Mike, on the new house and the future new "addition."

PSS

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Author: rah1420 Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30907 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/17/2003 10:33 PM
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A house is a big purchase. Rushing through closing doesn't seem prudent to me.

It's more fun when you're selling. Show up, sign maybe two papers, and walk out with that big beeeeeeautiful check in your pocket (if you're lucky.)

Lasted all of a week until we signed the note for our new place. Bummer!

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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30909 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/17/2003 11:21 PM
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<<It is NOT obvious. How would he know if he wasn't told?

... and I honestly don't remember what went on at the closing. Sign this, sign that, have a seat, want some water? Yak yak yak for an hour or two.

This is the key. For probably 99% of the population (who buy a house) this is the largest financial transaction that they ever have. You would think that it is something to take seriously. I could never understand why the escrow and closing costs were so high...then I thought, it must be because some people spend hours reading the documents and asking important questions.


Mike
>>


I got a referral from the county bar association for an hour's time with an attorney who specialized in real estate. I took in copies of all the paperwork and had him look them over. No problems. As I recall, it cost me $50. ---what a deal!



Seattle Pioneer

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Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/17/2003 11:33 PM
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<<When I lived in Arizona, a series of gas meters exploded. The utility knew the meters were defective, but it would "cost too much" to replace them. Several people died and many houses burned down before the city forced them to replace the defective meters.

Never underestimate the foolishness and greed of a commercial enterprise ;-)
>>


Any idea of what the problem was? The only gas meter I ever heard stories about blowing up had this happened when a welder for a contractor managed to connect an acetylene tank to the gas line. When the acetylene got to the large, industrial meter set at this shipyard, the grease in the meter apparently caused it to explode, or so I was told.


At the gas utility I worked for, the risk safety managers made regular pilgramages in to talk to field personnel to emphasize the importance of not taking risks with public safety and avoiding the subsequent lawsuits.

There is no doubt that any employee who encountered a situation they thought might be such a hazard was expected to take whatever action was necesaary to protect lives and property. Managers made it a point to see that any employee taking such action was not reprimanded or harassed by supervisors merely because it might be inconvenient or expensive for the company.




Seattle Pioneer

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Author: Gnordo Two stars, 250 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30919 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/18/2003 9:37 AM
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<<When I lived in Arizona, a series of gas meters exploded. The utility knew the meters were defective, but it would "cost too much" to replace them. Several people died and many houses burned down before the city forced them to replace the defective meters.

Never underestimate the foolishness and greed of a commercial enterprise ;-)
>>
I've never heard of a meter exploding. Specifically what were the defect[s]? What brought this about? Where did the oxygen come from, what was the ignition source?

Over how long a period of time did the explosions occur? What was the common thread that related these accidents together? Were the units in a very close proximity to each other?

Which units were replaced; which were allowed to remain?

Can you cite any news articles/reports, date[s],specific town/city?

........I'm always interested in researching failures/accidents. It adds to my [and others] knowledge base to help prevent such reoccurences.


Gnordo





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Author: mikeg1382 Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30920 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/18/2003 11:31 AM
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Thanks for all the input, guys! I have spoken with the water company a little more, and they said that my realtor should have told me about the water. I called her, and she says the title company should have researched it better.

Regardless, I got my water back the next day and all is fine here. The only thing that got under my skin is the fact that the company would just turn off the supply without even trying to contact me first. Seems a bit drastic to me. I mean, even if they didn't know my name, they could have sent a form letter to the "resident" of my house, right? Oh, well, it's done now. Thanks again for all the replies...........

Mike in NJ

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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30927 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/18/2003 8:51 PM
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<<Regardless, I got my water back the next day and all is fine here. The only thing that got under my skin is the fact that the company would just turn off the supply without even trying to contact me first. Seems a bit drastic to me. I mean, even if they didn't know my name, they could have sent a form letter to the "resident" of my house, right? Oh, well, it's done now. Thanks again for all the replies...........

Mike in NJ
>>


Here's the problem from the standpoint of the utility:

The previous owner discovers he's still being billed for water YOU are using. He calls the utility, and they tell him they can't put the bill in someone else's name without that person's permission.

So the previous owner requests that the water be shut off ---the only way for him to get the bill out of his name.

The utility could leave the water on and send you a letter. But the person living there might not answer. The owner might be taking the opportunity to fill the Olympic sized swimming pool. If someone does call in after several days have gone by, they might very well tell the utility that they just moved in, and will accept responsibility for the bill only as of that day.

Who's going to pay for the service used between the time the previous owner called to cancel it and when the new customer agrees to be responsible for the bill?


This was the situation the gas utility I worked for confronted. They resolved it by turning off the gas at the request of the party responsible for paying the bill. If a new customer didn't think to call for service ---tough.



Seattle Pioneer

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Author: jfruhbauer Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30930 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/19/2003 12:39 AM
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Wow. We went through everything, practically line by line. Nobody started at us funny, or rushed us. I don't sign anything unless I know what it is, and understand the contents.

Ditto here. We just bought our first (and only so far) house about 1.5 years ago - yes, there was a ton of stuff to sign and a ton of stuff to think about, but it IS such a major decision that you really have to read all the fine print or be prepared to be surprised. Although we were not specifically told that the utilities would be shut off by such and such a date, basically we realized that nothing was free that came through a pipe, line or wire into our house (or garbage/sewage out). When we rented, we knew that it was the law (in our area) that apartment buildings were required to pay for water and sewage (i.e. this isn't something that the utilities are nice enough to take care of for the population for free *grin*). Anything more than that was an extra (i.e. "utilities included").

I guess maybe I played too much Monopoly when I was little - loved owning the utilities (including water) and collecting monies on them ;-)

Jennifer

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Author: Goofyhoofy Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Top Recommended Fools Feste Award Nominee! Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30953 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/20/2003 9:44 AM
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This was the situation the gas utility I worked for confronted. They resolved it by turning off the gas at the request of the party responsible for paying the bill. If a new customer didn't think to call for service ---tough.

This is really quite a terrific customer service technique.

Somehow I can't help thinking that if the customer had a choice, i.e. they weren't dealing with a monopoly, the vendor would have a somewhat different approach, such as using a criss-cross directory to find the new telephone number at that location and trying to continue service to the customer rather than letting another company poach them. That would take all of 5 minutes, which I suspect a good businessperson would think a reasonable investment for the next 10 years of monthly revenues.

However in your line of work, and given the experience that it brings you, I can understand how you come to think that "tough" is an adequate response.
 


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Author: jfruhbauer Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30955 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/20/2003 12:02 PM
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different approach, such as using a criss-cross directory to find the new telephone number at that location and trying to continue service to the customer

An even easier and cheaper means would be to send a letter to the service address (in care of "current resident" so that the mail would not get forwarded), explaining that the new resident had to re-establish service or their service would be cut off by DD/MM.

You would think it would be to the company's benefit to keep service going - without service, they can hardly make any money off that resident!

Jennifer

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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30959 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/20/2003 12:47 PM
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<<. That would take all of 5 minutes, which I suspect a good businessperson would think a reasonable investment for the next 10 years of monthly revenues.

However in your line of work, and given the experience that it brings you, I can understand how you come to think that "tough" is an adequate response. >>


Well, that's a nice, righteous assertion. But in my experience newspapers don't make an effort to identify and solicit new residents for service before discontinuing delivery. I've never heard of oil companies making deliveries of oil without someone agreeing to pay the bill, to avoid the inconvenience of running out of fuel.

And I think you underestimate the time it would take to locate new property owners and tenants ---and don't forget its FAR more common for tenants to move into new addresses than owners. Of course, whether it was five minutes or an hour of time spent, that WOULD be paid for by other rate payers.

And then there is the cost of fuel that continues to be used with no one to pay for it ---except other ratepayers of course.

Don't you suppose that some landlords and tenants are going to learn the rules and game the system to see how much service they can get without paying for it? That happens often enough now when an opportunity arises.

I simply relate that these businesses practices are within the rules of the state utility commission. If they wished to adopt your bright ideas and impose them on the utility companies, they could certainly do so. They haven't.

"If you want utility service, call and ask for it," seems like a perfectly reasonable policy standard to me.




Seattle Pioneer







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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30961 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/20/2003 1:03 PM
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<<An even easier and cheaper means would be to send a letter to the service address (in care of "current resident" so that the mail would not get forwarded), explaining that the new resident had to re-establish service or their service would be cut off by DD/MM.

You would think it would be to the company's benefit to keep service going - without service, they can hardly make any money off that resident!

Jennifer >>


Without someone to bill for the service used, it will be other ratepayers who pay for the service used while letters are going out. So just how much free water, gas and electric service do you want to have added to your utility bill? And I can assure you that there will be plenty of people who don't receive the letter or ignore it, and will have identical complaints when the utility service is shut off anyhow.


And I might add, that it takes a service call by a repairman to shut off the gas or electric service. If someone answered my knock at the door and agreed to accept responsibility for the service, I would take their name and have an account set up.


By the way, I might add that the utility I worked for did experiment with leaving the gas on with no one to bill. They figured that it cost money to turn it off and turn it back on again, and went to the practice recommended by Goofyhoofy of sending out letters and leaving the gas on until bills ran up to some amount before shutting off the gas. They found that this was a failure on the whole ---lots of people simply didn't call, preferring "free" gas until it was finally turned off.

Here's the bottom line: you will always need to turn the service off to attract the attention of some people. And many of these people will conjure up reasons about how unreasonable it is to do so.





Seattle Pioneer

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Author: rsprang Big gold star, 5000 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30962 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/20/2003 1:06 PM
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Any idea of what the problem was?

Unfortunately, I don't. This was 20 years ago, so my memory of the details is a little foggy ;-( I do recal it was a manfacturing defect in the meters, and my recollection it was related to the extreme desert heat (130F was common), but I'm not certain.

I did try a search, but didn't find anything. Probably too long ago to be online.

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Author: jfruhbauer Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30963 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/20/2003 1:22 PM
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Without someone to bill for the service used, it will be other ratepayers who pay for the service used while letters are going out.

Irrelevant - the original poster was in his house, getting "free" water (they bought the house in October and only recently had their water shut off).

So someone was paying for water his family used for 3-4 months.

If the utility sent out a letter, then he would have been made aware of the situation. At this point, it doesn't matter if he should have or should not have known.

The fact is, that if the utility sent out a letter WHEN THE ISSUE FIRST CAME UP, the utility would have been getting paid, no one else would be “eating” the costs of the free water and the new owner would have been informed of his ignorance about water utilities much sooner.

Jennifer


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Author: Jamoc Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30964 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/20/2003 1:45 PM
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They figured that it cost money to turn it off and turn it back on again, and went to the practice recommended by Goofyhoofy of sending out letters and leaving the gas on until bills ran up to some amount before shutting off the gas. They found that this was a failure on the whole ---lots of people simply didn't call, preferring "free" gas until it was finally turned off.

There is a parallel to my cable company. I didn't call the cable company when I moved into my house over two years ago. The cable was still on so I didn't call. Two years later and I still don't pay. Not to mention that I get HBO, Showtime, and Cinemax. I'm waiting for them to shut it off.

I understand that cable is hardly a necessiaty like electricity or gas but the parallel is there. The only other difference I can think of is that it doesn't cost the cable company more to send me cable service as opposed to electricity or gas that does cost money.

And please don't flame me that your cable bills are high because I don't pay, you're just bitter :)

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Author: rsprang Big gold star, 5000 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30965 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/20/2003 2:05 PM
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The cable was still on so I didn't call. Two years later and I still don't pay.

I wonder if you would be liable for the service fees if/when they discover your free cable? I wonder if this could be considered "cable theft"?

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Author: Jamoc Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30973 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/20/2003 3:18 PM
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I wonder if you would be liable for the service fees if/when they discover your free cable? I wonder if this could be considered "cable theft"?

This actually happened another time to me in an apartment. Same thing getting a few premium channles as well. After a few months, a cable guy knocked on the door. My coward roommates scattered. The guy pretty much said, "We know you've been getting cable and we could make you pay. But if you start paying now. We'll call it even."

I said, "Fine." He asked if I wanted any premium channels and I told him, "No."

I started getting bills for basic cable but my service never changed and I still got the premium channels.

They're a mess if you ask me.

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Author: goohsmom Big red star, 1000 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30990 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/20/2003 6:23 PM
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An even easier and cheaper means would be to send a letter to the service address (in care of "current resident" so that the mail would not get forwarded), explaining that the new resident had to re-establish service or their service would be cut off by DD/MM.


To you and GoofyHoofy---how is the utility supposed to know the property has changed hands? How are they supposed to differentiate between a customer who has moved and one who just hasn't paid their bill?

Curious

Pam

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Author: koralis Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30991 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/20/2003 7:02 PM
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To you and GoofyHoofy---how is the utility supposed to know the property has changed hands? How are they supposed to differentiate between a customer who has moved and one who just hasn't paid their bill?

Notification by the town tax office?


Incidently, I just got my 6 month bill automatically mailed to me for trash services... at least that one's taken care of! (evidently a recent change whereby the tax collector has taken over garbage collection billing.)

I was going to call about water and sewage today, but being a governmental holiday... tomorrow.




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Author: Goofyhoofy Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Top Recommended Fools Feste Award Nominee! Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30994 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/20/2003 7:25 PM
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Well, that's a nice, righteous assertion. But in my experience newspapers don't make an effort to identify and solicit new residents for service before discontinuing delivery. I've never heard of oil companies making deliveries of oil without someone agreeing to pay the bill, to avoid the inconvenience of running out of fuel.

Nowhere did I say the gas company should continue making deliveries without someone paying for it.

I did say that if there were three gas companies (you know, not a monopoly), that the practices would likely change, and that as soon as the company found that the prior tenant had left (presumably because someone called and said "I'm not paying the bill anymore") they would be better off to try to contact someone in the house to continue service. The alternative is to let the tenant select a "new" gas company.

(This would be easily accomplished by separating distribution and "content", but I suspect you would consider that an impermissible interference in the so-called "free market".) The "content" companies would contract with the pipeline company for "delivery", but would handle everything else, including customer relations, fulfillment, and so on. This is a pretty good model for other "natural monopoly" products, like electricity, railroads, and so on.

By the way, to the contrary, when we moved in to this house, we were immediately contacted by the newspaper, to see if we wanted to continue delivery. They have people on commission who do exactly that, because "an interruption in service" costs them money. What a concept!

(For another example of "customer retention", try subscribing to AOL, and then try quitting. They know you can go elsewhere. They will do everything in their power to keep you. Of course the monopoly gas company doesn't have to try so hard, because they know you have no choice. That was exactly my point; not - as you tried to make it - that people should get "free gas", nor that ratepayers should somehow subsidize them.)

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Author: Goofyhoofy Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Top Recommended Fools Feste Award Nominee! Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30995 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/20/2003 7:29 PM
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I wonder if you would be liable for the service fees if/when they discover your free cable? I wonder if this could be considered "cable theft"?

Technically, yes. Some cable companies have done exactly that, and have recouped all the fees for lost service, sometimes into the thousands of dollars. (I worked in the cable industry - on the programming side - but we had a hardware division for a while until it was divested and I can assure you that they did it.)

I always wondered if a defense of "I didn't ask for it" wouldn't work. After all, if a company mails you a product which you did not order and then sends a bill, you are under no obligation to pay for it. Even more, you can use the product; you are under no obligation to send it back. I would assume that someone has tried this defense, but I know of cases where there was summary judgment and payment for the cable services was due immediately.

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Author: goohsmom Big red star, 1000 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 30999 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/20/2003 7:53 PM
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Notification by the town tax office

In my area that could take a couple of months. Not at all what I would call optimal. Then again, in my area the water company would have sent out one of those cards that give you a week before shut-off.

Pam

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Author: jfruhbauer Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 31004 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/20/2003 10:01 PM
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how is the utility supposed to know the property has changed hands? How are they supposed to differentiate between a customer who has moved and one who just hasn't paid their bill?

If payment hasn't been made, then a letter addressed to Ms. X or current resident stating that the service will be shut off would suffice. This letter would serve the purpose of both an overdue/shut-off notice as well as covering the base if there was a new customer (i.e. they don't know, they don't care if you are new or not - to whomever is living there, pay up and/or switch/shut-off service or we will be shutting it off for you).

Since overdue notices are sent anyway, if they are ignored, a simple addition of "or current resident" would cover the situation of a new resident and avoid the mail being forwarded away from the service address (if the As long as the utility bill had no personal information (and I haven't seen one more personalized than name/address and account number), it wouldn't be a privacy issue.

Hmm...thinking about this, I would have to make a slight change to what I said above. A "regular" shut-off letter would have to be sent (so that if someone did move and wanted to keep service [I did when we had to move but our house hadn't sold yet] they would have to be informed) and additionally a "current resident" letter should be sent. Since these letters are all auto-generated, and if they company only did this duplicate letter on the very last notice, then they really are only paying for paper and another stamp to get the extra copy going. Even if they only get a slight response from this duplicate lettering, I think it would still pay for itself 'cause it is in the company's benefit to have services being paid for and not have to go through the additional time/expense of re-establishing service.

Yes, there might be the freeloading exceptions that Seattle told us about, but I feel pretty confident that many people (including the original poster ;-) don't want to have their service disrupted and would really appreciate a "current resident" letter - for the company to let something like this (FREE service for 3-4 months!) is a waste of money that they could have avoided by sending a simple letter.

Jennifer

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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 31005 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/20/2003 11:28 PM
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<<The cable was still on so I didn't call. Two years later and I still don't pay.

I wonder if you would be liable for the service fees if/when they discover your free cable? I wonder if this could be considered "cable theft"?
>>


At the gas utility I worked for, people had to take affirmative action intending to defraud the company of service used before it would be considered theft and turned in to the cops.

If the customer had requested that the gas be turned off, but the company failed to do so, the company ate the bill until and unless it could establish that someone else was using it or could turn off the meter.

AQnd sometimes meters were located behind locked up fences or in basements, inaccessable without the cooperation of the resident, another reason to turn the gas off when the customer has an incentive to provide access and get his name off the bill.




Seattle Pioneer

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Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/21/2003 12:01 AM
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<<Notification by the town tax office?
>>


Probably, oh, 95% of utility name changes involve tenants, not property owners. Renters move a lot more often.


Seattle Pioneer

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Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/21/2003 12:06 AM
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<<There is a parallel to my cable company. I didn't call the cable company when I moved into my house over two years ago. The cable was still on so I didn't call. Two years later and I still don't pay. Not to mention that I get HBO, Showtime, and Cinemax. I'm waiting for them to shut it off.
>>


Heh, heh! You sound like the utility customers I often talked to while I spent four years in the billing department.


In that four years, I talked to THOUSANDS of people calling int to complain that their bill was too high. Sometimes it was.


But about as often, a customers bill was too low. I never got ANY complaints about that, though! The utility had to devise its own methods to keep on top of meters that broke and quit registering and such.


Now I can tell some more interesting stories about the two years I spent as a utility field collector, collecting money from people and/or turning off the gas on the customer and their wife and child and dog and cat...




Seattle Pioneer

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Author: Linne Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 31008 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/21/2003 12:56 AM
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although feel free to send a utility to someone if you have that much money :)

This reminded me of a story I just read by Steve Brown in the Dallas Morning News...

My favorite story about our poor, misunderstood, wealthy neighbors involves a Highland Park dowager of days gone by. Her gigantic house is still a landmark on Turtle Creek.

In her twilight years, the family bank account far eclipsed her mental acumen.

Back then, the city of Highland Park mailed out copies of its annual budget so residents could see how their tax dollars were spent.

One year, the widow got her copy, thought it was a bill and paid it - wrote a check for the whole thing.


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Author: goohsmom Big red star, 1000 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 31011 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/21/2003 5:53 AM
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Hmm...thinking about this, I would have to make a slight change to what I said above. A "regular" shut-off letter would have to be sent (so that if someone did move and wanted to keep service [I did when we had to move but our house hadn't sold yet] they would have to be informed) and additionally a "current resident" letter should be sent. Since these letters are all auto-generated, and if they company only did this duplicate letter on the very last notice, then they really are only paying for paper and another stamp to get the extra copy going. Even if they only get a slight response from this duplicate lettering, I think it would still pay for itself 'cause it is in the company's benefit to have services being paid for and not have to go through the additional time/expense of re-establishing service

And if they sent this second notice on a postcard, so the recipient wasn't necessarily "opening" someone else's mail, so much the better if it was a new resident. As for trying to get the back balance from before the resident established service, some utilities make you bring your lease or closing statement in at establishment (I think most of them targeted apartment complexes with high turnover rates) and made that date the date of your beginning service, no matter when you had gone down to establish an account. That way, the utility isn't losing a couple of months of services.

Thanks for making me think, Jennifer

Pam

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Author: jfruhbauer Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 31012 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/21/2003 9:37 AM
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If the customer had requested that the gas be turned off, but the company failed to do so, the company ate the bill until and unless it could establish that someone else was using it or could turn off the meter.

I wish my old gas company was this good (NICOR, in Northern Illinois). We moved out in September, and had the house turned down low on everything (basically, just keeping things running so that the house could be shown and to keep pipes from freezing). We finally sold the house and I called up about 2 weeks in advance (water/sewage/refuse, gas & electricity [phone had been shut off since we moved out) to have everything shut off.

When I called, I was told that the new owner had already called to establish service, I said "great" and just reiterated that I wanted stuff turned off (in cases like this, there isn't an actual shut-off, just a transfer of billing) and a physical meter reading done. Well water and electricity was fine. Gas however, didn't do a reading and so my formerly teeny gas bill (like $20/month) turned into a final bill of almost $80.

I called and complained as soon as I got the bill - got the run-around, but found out they never did an actual meter reading, they just did an estimated one AFTER the new owner (who, of course, used more gas than when the house was empty) moved in.

Although I argued, I couldn't get the gas company to budge and I finally figured that it would cost me more to fight the bill than to just pay the extra $50 (especially since I had moved out of state).

In retrospect, if I am ever in that situation again, I will have a friend go over to the house and do an actual meter reading the day that service is supposed to get cancelled.

Jennifer

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Author: mikeg1382 Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 31015 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/21/2003 10:30 AM
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I guess I might have forgotten a detail or two here. Apparently, our water utility bills quarterly. I moved in on November 1st, last year, and the water was shut off last week. When I called the company, they said that the former owner had just gotten the bill (forwarded to him, as it was in his name) and immediately requested his account be closed. Absolutely no problem and, in fact, if the old owner were to ask me to pay that last bill, I would. Of course, I am not going out of my way to offer, though! ;)

Now, at the point where the old owner had his account closed, I would have thought the company could have sent me a letter, addressed to current resident, to inform me of the imminant shut-off of my water supply, giving me the opportunity to open an account of my own. I wouldn't think the delay between the old owner closing his account and me receiving the shut-off notice would be more than a couple days, and, of course, when I opened my own account I would automatically be held responsible for the water charges from the date of the closing of the old account. But, I have to agree with the previous poster that my water company is a monopoly, and since I have no choice of companies, they can do pretty much as they please. I am just glad that they could turn the water back on the next day.

As far as that cable sidetrack went, I too got free cable for about 2 months in my last apartment. When I moved in, I connected the cable to the TV and found that it was still on, so I called the company to request that they place the account in my name. Their response? That I could not close the old account, since it was not in my name and that I had to wait for the old tenants to close their account before I could open my own. I wasn't inclined to argue, as the package included a few premium channels I would not have otherwise paid for, so I continued to receive cable for about 2 months. One day I came home and the cable was shut off, so I called the company and they had it back on the same day. I agree with the other poster when he/she said that the cable company is a mess.

Mike in NJ

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Author: jfruhbauer Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 31016 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/21/2003 10:36 AM
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Now, at the point where the old owner had his account closed, I would have thought the company could have sent me a letter, addressed to current resident, to inform me of the imminant shut-off of my water supply, giving me the opportunity to open an account of my own.

This sounds entirely too reasonable ;-) Since a lot of the billing/letters are automatic now, it would be a simple thing to add this feature (a postcard or letter to "current resident" for a single-family residence. It would cost next to nothing - indeed, it would save them time and money by not having to have you argue with a phone-rep and not having to send out a person to disconnect/reconnect (albiet, you had to pay for this, but it is still costing them in terms of having extra people on-hand, on the payroll to account for this extra activity).

But, as I said, this is just too logical and reasonable.

Jennifer

p.s. glad you have water :-)

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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 31039 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/21/2003 2:08 PM
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<<I guess I might have forgotten a detail or two here. Apparently, our water utility bills quarterly. I moved in on November 1st, last year, and the water was shut off last week. When I called the company, they said that the former owner had just gotten the bill (forwarded to him, as it was in his name) and immediately requested his account be closed. Absolutely no problem and, in fact, if the old owner were to ask me to pay that last bill, I would. Of course, I am not going out of my way to offer, though! ;)
>>


I would.


At the utility I worked for, we made an effort to extract the move in date from new customers and get their agreement to pro rate the bill back to that date.

This kind of thing is easier now. All the gas and electric meters for the utility now transmit their actual read every few minutes. So the actual read for virtually any time is usually available.




SDeattle Pioneer




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Author: mikeg1382 Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 31072 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/22/2003 9:11 AM
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<<<<<This kind of thing is easier now. All the gas and electric meters for the utility now transmit their actual read every few minutes. So the actual read for virtually any time is usually available.>>>>>

Is this kind of thing only in certain areas? We still have a meter man come out and read our gas and electric meters, which scared the s**t out of my wife the first time she saw a strange guy walking around in our backyard!

Mike in NJ


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Author: jfruhbauer Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 31073 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/22/2003 9:16 AM
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Is this kind of thing only in certain areas?

It seems like it is becomming more common - they did it for our gas and water meters last year so that their van, driving down the street, could do the meters; prior to that it was just physical readings.

Jennifer

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Author: goohsmom Big red star, 1000 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 31114 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/22/2003 7:04 PM
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I always wondered if a defense of "I didn't ask for it" wouldn't work. After all, if a company mails you a product which you did not order and then sends a bill, you are under no obligation to pay for it. Even more, you can use the product; you are under no obligation to send it back. I would assume that someone has tried this defense, but I know of cases where there was summary judgment and payment for the cable services was due immediately

I think this would only work if you didn't own a television, and could show you hadn't owned one during the time the service was on. After all, if you watched television, even though you didn't request the service, you were using it, so I don't think the same law would apply.

Might make a fun trial to watch, though.

Pam

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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 31124 of 129272
Subject: Re: Surprise!! Water bill..... Date: 1/22/2003 9:42 PM
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<<<<<<<This kind of thing is easier now. All the gas and electric meters for the utility now transmit their actual read every few minutes. So the actual read for virtually any time is usually available.>>>>>

Is this kind of thing only in certain areas? We still have a meter man come out and read our gas and electric meters, which scared the s**t out of my wife the first time she saw a strange guy walking around in our backyard!

Mike in NJ
>>


Heh, heh! This networked meter reading system extends over much of the service area of that noble gas and electric utility, Puget Sound Enery. Gas meter were retrofitted with a device that clocks the hands on the meter, and reports the read every few minutes to a radio receiver located within a few blocks on a utility pole. This data is collected and phoned in to utility computers every so often.

Pretty good system unless you are a now unemployed meter reader.




Seattle Pioneer

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