San Diego

Water Customer Files First Lawsuit Against City Over Billing Controversy

Lawsuit comes while the city auditor investigates why hundreds of water customers have had irregular bills the past year.

The City of San Diego has been sued for one customer’s unexpected spike on their water bill last year.

The small claims lawsuit is the first since hundreds of homeowners across the city complained about seeing their water bills skyrocket from one billing cycle to the next.

“My last bill, which really took me over the edge, was $650, or $675, something around there,” Richard Perez told NBC 7 Responds.

On June 11, Perez, a San Carlos customer, filed a complaint in Small Claims Court after the city refused to refund a portion of his water bill. Perez said he and his wife are musicians, often on the road touring and have never used the amount of water they were being charged for.

"We would have to stand outside with a water hose or something for days on end to have to run up that much water," Richard said.

Richard is not alone.

“My bill is on Auto Pay so I didn’t quite notice it at first,” said Mission Hills resident Todd Armstrong. “We averaged about $250 every two months and it jumped all of a sudden to $750.”

And while Richard and Todd’s increases are significant, NBC 7 Responds spoke to other customers whose bills were as high as $4,831 for two months

All of these customer complaints have been made while the city is undergoing a major transition from manual water meters to new, “smart meters” or an Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) that can relay water-use wirelessly.

The City of San Diego has to date refused to attribute the unexpected spikes to its smart meter program.

But now, NBC 7 Responds has learned that the city has put the AMI program on-hold, pending the results of an audit performed by the San Diego City Auditor.

The audit was initially set to be released in Spring but now is expected to be completed later this month.

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