Water and Sewage Utility Bill

Need some advice on Water and Sewage bills (W&S). The MHP is only 26 units on public W&S. The yearly W&S bill increased from $21,000 to nearly $38,000! Did some research, and come to find out they local authority is charging the park a base rate of $52 per unit for water and a base rate of $85 for sewage per unit PLUS a overage fee of $2.40 per 1000 gallons over 1000 gallons for water AND $3.40 per 1000 gallons over 1000 gallons for sewage. Therefore, at a minimum the park is being charge $137 per unit x 26 units, plus all the overage coming and going from the park (water in sewage out). Furthermore, the local service authority refuses to bill the units directly instead billing the owner everything although they are charging like it is separate. Has anyone ever heard of this and is it even legal? I attempted to talk to the local water and sewage authority, probably a dozen people and they all say talk to someone else, I talk to them and they refer me back to the person that just hung up on me. Can anyone help?

What are other parks paying? Pretty much as long as the city has a consistent rate policy they can do pretty much as they like. Increased rates are becoming a common place event even to high levels like you are seeing here. Most cities have underfunded their capital projects for years and or raided the water/sewer reserve funds for their pet projects. Now the all the sudden they have to due large rate increases. Rate uncertainty is a major reason to pass utilities.

Phillip Merrill
Merrill Water Systems

Phillip, the other parks that I have talked to pay far less. One owner that owns 10 parks in the area is charged one base rate for water, one base rate for sewage and then any overages and as a result pays less than 1/4 as much as the park in question. It seems like there is no set standard, just however it is set up and the local service provider refuses to work with me because “it will cut into their profit”.

Sounds like it’s time to speak with a public utility attorney. If they cannot explain why their base charges and approach vary between properties then they are likely violating state statutes and discriminating against certain customers. Whether it’s historically how it was setup is irrelevant. $137 base charges per unit is gouging even with a private M.U.D. It should be more like 30-50 max and that’s on the high end. Public utility for an entire city I would expect is closer to like $15-20 per unit.

Here is how its set up. There is a small local municipality that bills the water/sewage, however, the get there W&S from the surrounding larger municipality and is billed for it. When I call the local municipality, they claim they do not set the rates, and to call the larger authority. I call the larger authority, they say they have nothing to do with that rate, it’s the local municipality and hang up on me. Everyone says it’s the other authorities issue not theirs, yet $40k is going somewhere. It seems to be pure price gouging and no one is taking responsibility.

Your state regulations should be providing consumers rights on the cost of the water that their provider purchases so you can see how this is being passed on to you. This exists in Texas anyway from our Public Utility Commission.

While you’re getting an attorney lined up you could look up that for your state and see how you can request that information and use it to fight the fight.

The rate structure has to be uniformly applied. Ask for their rate sheet. It doesnt matter if they buy or make their own. Rate has to be uniformly applied across all users in a class. Each class will have a different rate. Once you get the rate sheet then you will know where you are at. If your getting the same rate as others in your class then you dont have much you can do unless the utility is regulated by a utility commission. If your getting a different rate than others in the same class then as @jhutson said time to push back with an attorney.

Phillip Merrill
Merrill Water

I have a rate sheet, specifies rates for residents $52 base fee water/$2.40 per 1000 gallons. Sewage fee $85/ $3.10 per 1000 gallons. Commercial rates for businesses $52 base fee water/$2.40 per 1000 gallons. Sewage fee $85/ $3.10 per 1000. Is that the ticket, argue commercial? They can’t have it both ways: refuse to meter the individual home owners, yet charge as if they do. Furthermore, they didn’t even put the meters in themselves, it was paid out of pocket to meter the park.

Who own the pipes in the park? If you own the infrastructure then you have 1 connection. If they own the infrastructure then they should be billing each resident and you should not have to do their billing and collections work.

We just had this very discussion on another thread
http://forum.mobilehomeuniversity.com/t/water?source_topic_id=13163

It is amazing how complicated just a simple matter can get.

Phillip Merrill
Merrill Water Systems

pipes are owned by the owner of the park and is their responsibility. One master meter coming in which the bills are generated from, the municipality says they do not want liability for anything past the master meter, however, they are charging per unit. It is crazy. They refuse to budge on this. They want to have their cake and eat it too.

You and your attorney need to calculate all the months they have had this model and sue the utility to reimburse you for the overcharged amount compared to the typical customer. The state will allow typically somewhere between 4 and 7 years depending on the statutes of limitation. That should get their attention. Or if you’re looking for a simple answer / quick fix and to just stop the bleeding then just have them remove those charges. The 1st option will probably be litigated a bit and cost a bundle, but could have a nice little payoff if your story is as good as you make it seem. What a mess. Good luck.

They refuse to remove the charges, claiming “it will hurt our bottom line”. I said that your bottom line doesn’t matter, what you are doing isn’t fair and probably isn’t legal, they now ignore my phone calls and emails altogether. Oh yeah, forgot to mention, in addition to the $137 base per unit, and the $5.50 per 1000 gallons, there is also an additional fee of $2300 per quarter for SEW REC.

Keep us posted how it goes - this is not a common problem, but when it happens it is pretty bad.

Looks like only thing to do is submeter your tenants and pass that cost along to them. or at least some of those cost.

Unless your water is from Perrier, and the same for sewer (?). The rates you are noting are exorbitant.
Therefore first things first, be sure the rates are monthly and not bi-monthly. Secondly, find your state’s utility regulatory authority, if your supplier is not under their jurisdiction, contact the city and county government. Some judicial or quasi-judicial board had to publicly approved the rates. Most city and county records are on-line, then googling “Water Rates”. The reason I stress this is we have found numerous municipal water suppliers misinterpreting the “approved” rates. For example: Are you credited base fees for periodically vacant units ?

After auditing the water rates, look for water leaks most MHP’s’ use @ 1000 gallons per a single occupant, or 2,000 gallons if they have a laundry (For example 2 occupants w/laundry = 4,000 gallons per month) While every MHP is different, based on our 20 + years of sub-metering service through out the US, $45 to $75 is an approximate range for a typical MHP. Also, keep in mind when tenants pay for their own water use, usage drops 25 to 35%. Ad maybe your MHP residents will get involved, politically, to who is responsible for your exorbitant water/sewer rates

If you need some additional help, We’re here to answer your sub-metering questions.

Sincerely
Dan Helton
President
Southern Water Management
727-827-4509 cell 727-421-9695
Dan@SouthernWaterManagement.com
http://SouthernWaterManagement.com

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Guys, it has gotten worse. Not only is there the $52 base water fee, and the $85 dollar base sewage fee, there is also a $72 dollar base sewer tax, per unit per quarter. Is this average?

Quarterly sewer charges are becoming more and more common with muni’s. We have one here in Houston, TX each quarter based on the amount of impermeable surface on the land. The logic is that the more impermeable surface (e.g. concrete pads, walkways, etc) that exists the more likely that rain will naturally get to the storm sewers, and this money is to invest in the expansion / replacement of those lines.

For my personal residence this is like $25 per quarter, so I would say yes that $72 per unit is a ripoff for each mobile home owner unless this Park is in Malibu or Palm Beach. :wink:

It sounds like you have a good case for pricing discrimination.

At my smaller 20 unit park we pay a flat $30 per space rate for water to the small town we reside in. State is mandating meters to all residents by end ot the year so sounds like I ‘gotta bad moon risin’ over my park here pretty soon…