“I have all of my bills on auto-pay or they’re set up so I can just do them online through my bank,” said Dana Matonis.
That’s why Dana said she was shocked when her son called to say the water department was shutting the water off at her Sabre Springs home due to delinquent payments. Dana said she never expected what happened next when she called the City of San Diego Public Utilities Department.
“She said ‘I’m sorry to tell you this but when your account was initially set up, back in 2013, whoever set it up for you only set you up for sewer services,’” Dana said, “We have never billed you for water.”
Dana said since day one of moving into her new home, she paid around $60 each month for what she thought was sewer and water service. Since she did not receive a paper statement, Dana said she had no way of catching the city’s mistake.
A week after her initial call with the Public Utilities Department, Dana said she received a pile of bills in the mail, one for each month she lived in the home, going back to 2013.
“The total at that time was over $8,000,” Dana said.
Dana said the Public Utilities Department told her she must have a leak, due to a spike in her water usage that arose sometime in 2015. Having never seen a bill detailing her water usage before, she said she had no idea there was a leak.
So, Dana estimated what she owed and sent the Public Utilities Department $700. But, instead of her next bill being lower, it was for over $9,000. Dana said she asked the department for help and after investigating her situation, she received a letter in the mail.
“They said ‘We’ve reviewed your case and we will be making an adjustment to your bill,” Dana said, “We have decided to credit you $200.”
Dana said she couldn’t believe she was paying for the mistake of someone at the Public Utilities Department who never properly set up her account in the first place.
“I’m not asking them to give me anything, I’m not asking for special treatment, I just want them to do what’s right and what’s fair,” Dana said.
Dana contacted NBC 7 Responds. We reviewed Dana’s bills, including the charges before and after the leak and took our findings to the city’s Public Utilities Department. Since March, the department had only offered Dana a $200 credit but a week after NBC 7 Responds got involved, Dana’s bill went from over $9,000 to just under $800.
According to an email sent to Dana from a department billing manager, “the bills in question need to be adjusted based on our error and the resulting lack of reasonable notice about your usage.”
In an email to NBC 7 Responds, Lee Ann Jones-Santos, the Assistant Director for the Public Utilities Department, said, “The Public Utilities Department worked with the customer on their unique situation to come to a positive resolution.”