City mistakenly enforced water bill policy

Posted at 5:51 AM, Jul 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-26 11:44:55-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - San Diego families who saw their water bills skyrocket after a water leak could be in for a break because when it came to leaks, city staffers were enforcing a policy that didn't exist.

The city is now reversing course after 10News brought it to their attention.

Previously, the city would increase water rates for families with leaking homes to a tier reserved for those who consume the most water -- that would make the bill even more expensive.

However, once a leak was discovered, the families could ask the city to adjust their bill downward to a lower, less-expensive tier.

While that's a common request, city staffers told families that they would only grant that request -- and adjust the bill downward -- if the homeowner submitted a claim through their insurance policy that was denied. Homeowners didn't want to do that because it could cause their insurance rates to go up.

Renters like Larry Braun are stuck. He discovered a leak in the pipes around his Ocean Beach home and saw his family's water bills rise to a total of more than $2,000.

The city told Braun he needed the claim from his landlord's homeowner's insurance, and the owner didn't want to do it because of his rates potentially increasing.

"I'm not set up to pay these type of fees," said Braun, who works at 10News. "They know it's a leak; I have plumber bills that show they fixed it."

Braun shared multiple emails from city staffers explaining the new policy, which 10News then sent to the city.

A spokesman said it's a mistake, and workers are now being told that a request for a leak adjustment does not need to come with a homeowner's insurance claim.

They are now revisiting Braun's bill and informing the staff not to enforce this policy.

If you're concerned about leaks in your home, the city will send an inspector out for free. The spokesman says wait times depend on how many calls they get, but they try to respond as fast as possible.