Water Bill Anguish

The following article contains excerpts from a series of statements submitted by Michael Lockhart, president of American Telephone and Utility Consultants and founder of The Coalition for Water Bill Justice, and Lawrence Schatt, deputy commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Customer & Conservation Services.

In New York City, getting an accurate water bill is as unlikely as getting a taxi at rush hour," says Michael Lockhart, president of American Telephone and Utility Consultants and founder of The Coalition for Water Bill Justice. "Co-op and condo owners are all-too-familiar with the problem–excessive numbers of apartments, toilets, and baths being billed on frontage; overestimated bills on broken meters; bills calculated using incorrect rates; buildings double-billed on both frontage and metered billing; bills with overlapping billing periods–and so on and so forth."

The effect of this "flawed" billing system has been the growth of an industry known as utility bill auditing. According to Lockhart, "Those of us in this industry have saved New York City customers millions of dollars by obtaining refunds for past billing errors and by securing our customers the lowest utility rates available."

Reacting to such comments, DEP’s Bureau of Customer & Conservation Services deputy commissioner Lawrence Schatt says that under the guise of The Coalition for Water Bill Justice, Lockhart has made false and misleading statements. "He respresents the Coalition as a ‘grassroots organization created to advocate for fair billing practices for water customers in New York City.’ In reality, he is soliciting business for his company, American Telephone and Utility Consultants, which charges customers as much as 50 percent of any reduction in their bills." Lockhart responds that Schatt has been critical of utility auditors because "we have discovered countless billing errors and have submitted thousands of claims to get refunds for our customers." Pointing out that a recent water board decision has reduced the time frame to challenge a bill from six years to two years, Lockhart further states, "Yes, rather than improving their flawed billing systems, the DEP moved to limit consumers from disputing bills."

The coalition’s primary concern is combatting what Lockhart calls DEP’s massively flawed billing system. "Nine out of ten New York City properties we audit have water bill errors, and quite often, these errors have been undiscovered for years. Once errors are found, navigating the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) bureaucracy can take from months to years to resolve even minor billing problems," Lockhart says.

Here are two real examples according to Lockhart:


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  • I am trying to find some help i feel the dep has done me a great misjustice. i am being charged about $3000 for water and sewer wich i feel i am not responsible for due to the fact i did not own the house in the time frime that bill is for and i was assured that all the water as sewer bills were taken care of..i would greatly appreciate any help with this matter thank you.
  • Hi I have a business in scotland I was charged £9.00 last week for using one Litre of water What a waste of my money.
  • In a long story short, I have a building in brooklyn where dep removed the water meter, 7 yrs later came back and issued me a summons for illegally removing the meter. After a year and a half in court. only after our research did we prove it was dep that removed the meter. Then a new meter was installed and calulated for the month of june and we received our bill with another 5,000 dollars added for the back years, but not all the way back. I have been disputed this charge since there was no way to get a true reading with no beginning, It has been over 4 years of going back and forth and looking for someone to help. I am ready to fight my own battle and sue them in the supreme court. any advise or contacts ... thankyou..
  • What agency can be contacted to audit a water utility company if suspected of fraud?
  • I've been getting estimated water bills since 1999. My house had a major fire on November 1999. It's been Vacant since then. I received and paid over 20000$ when they threatened with a lien. Now again they want another 8,600$ or they are selling my lien in less than 2 weeks. I live in a different state. Nobody been living in that house for years!!! I also owe several years of taxes which also are crazy high. I'm a single mother barely raising my kid. Please if anyone can help me?
  • These actions are making it impossible for people to accept the risk of owning property, look at how many fights a homeowner has to wage when these systems go awry. water, sewer, electric, gas, telephone, you could in theory wind up spending years in court battling while charges, interest and penalties accrue and perhaps service is cut. Well, Pataki is out of office so perhaps another run at legislation is in order.
  • where can i check my water bill. my coop said we paid 150.000 .