CREATED Sep. 23, 2013
Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Frustrated and with his back against the wall, a local man says he won't pay his high water bill and he's taking his fight to court. It's a story that's been in the making for 2 years.
That's how long Action News has been listening to complaints from customers slapped with skyrocketing charges.
"I don't think they left us much choice. I think we're probably going to have to go before a judge," said Bill Law.
Law is facing more than $10,000 in charges for water he said he didn't use. And while he refuses to pay, the late fees are adding up.
"I think the bill is somewhere around $13,000 now," said Bill.
That's why Bill has filed a lawsuit against the Las Vegas Valley Water District. He's also angry with how they're trying to collect the money.
"They've put a lien on your property?" asked Tricia Kean. "Yes," said Bill. "How does that make you feel?" asked Tricia. "You know it's like, I feel like, I did everything I could to try and resolve this issue and they make no effort," said Bill.
He's hoping legal action will help get the lien removed. It's a situation he said isn't easy to deal with.
"You say you've had some health issues as a result of all of this stress," said Tricia. "Yes, I was in the hospital. My doctor believes I may have had a mild heart attack," said Bill.
The charges he's facing, come from 3 months of high water use back in 2012. The first unusual bill came in July, for nearly $4,000. When Contact 13 first met Bill back in April of this year, he admitted to having a small leak, but nothing major.
"It was like a little tiny fizz coming up out of the pipe that lasted maybe 4 or 5 hours," said Bill back in April 2013.
A receipt shows he paid a plumber to fix that leak. But it obviously didn't solve the problem. The very next month, in August, he got a bill here for $3,400. And in September, a bill for nearly $3,200. It wasn't until the Water District changed his meter, that Bill claims his water use went back to normal.
"The meter was obviously bad," said Bill back in April 2013.
But the Water District said, not true. In our April report, they told us they couldn't diagnose Bill's water issue, but that his "meter was removed, tested and found to be operating properly."
But Contact 13 also learned the average shelf-life for a meter like Bill's is 20 years. And when his was replaced, the meter was more than 19 years old. Bill's attorney, Erica Loyd, believes his old meter was faulty.
"The main thing is getting the meter and getting an independent evaluation of the meter," said Erica.
Contact 13 reached out to the Water District about Bill's lawsuit. But they wouldn't comment about this legal issue.
So we turned to Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak. As Vice President for the Water District's Board of Directors, he said the lien put on Bill's property is common procedure.
"I mean the Water District unfortunately places liens when they have exhausted other remedies," said Sisolak.
He said, as a not-for-profit utility, the Water District must make every effort to collect the amount due. Otherwise, the cost is passed on to other customers. Sisolak said he understands Bill's frustration, but said it's unfortunate any customer would feel they have no choice but to take legal action.
"It might provide some guidance, depending on what the ruling is for the Water District, I think it will have a big impact on how we handle these cases in the future," said Sisolak.
As for Bill, he said he's taking a stand not only for himself, but for all water customers hit with unexplained high bills.
"I would like them to acknowledge what they have done to me. There needs to be some kind of actions taken by the Water District to assure this won't happen again. To me or anyone else," said Bill.
"So there's not much left to say but see you in court," said Erica.
So here's the Contact 13 bottom line: The Water District has filed a motion to dismiss the case. A hearing involving that request is set for Oct. 8. Our cameras will be there, and we'll stay on top of this and let you know what happens.
In the meantime, Bill is paying his regular monthly water bill. Even when you're in a dispute with any utility, it's always important to continue paying for your current service.
And remember, if you're having an issue with a utility company or any business, we've got your back Las Vegas. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.