TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) - Imagine getting a water bill for four times the amount you normally pay and not knowing why. It happened to a Toledo couple just two weeks after Christmas.
They reached out to Call 11 for Action and Emilie Voss, frustrated they weren't getting answers that made sense from the Toledo Department of Public Utilities.
To say the $442 bill was a shock for Mary Kuras and her husband would be an understatement.
“We've always paid our bills, paid them on time,” Mary said.
It's just the two of them in their three-bedroom condo they've owned since January of 2013. So how did they end up with such bad bill shock?
It comes down to an unusual policy that could cost you money if you aren't careful.
“They have two meters, one for their irrigation and one for their regular domestic meter for their house,” explained Toledo Commissioner of Utilities Administration Abby Arnold. “They did not realize they were supposed to call us to turn on their irrigation meter.”
Since the Kurases moved in in the middle of winter, they were unaware that the irrigation meter had been shut off and needed to be turned back on in May.
Instead, their association landscaper turned it on, and they were using water they weren't paying for without knowing it.
Since they didn't call the city, the Department of Public Utilities viewed it as unauthorized use and sent them a bill for the water from the irrigation meter over the last two years.
“What I wonder is why it took two years for these bills to catch up with us,” Mary said.
“Once we figured it out, which was after a period of time, then we had to bill them for the water that was used,” Arnold explained.
Emilie Voss set up a meeting so the Kurases and Arnold could meet face-to-face to go over the bill.
“I credited them the minimum charges that they wouldn't have been charged if they had understood the policy,” Arnold said.
“She did knock off $44 off the bill, and that's all I know,” Mary said.
In the end, the Kurases did have to pay for the water they used. But how do you make sure you don't get stuck in the same situation if you have an irrigation meter?
The City of Toledo has a couple options for homeowners with separate irrigation meters in the winter: You can choose to leave your irrigation meter on for the winter and face minimum charges, or you can call the city and have them come out and turn it off in the fall, and then back on in the spring. There is a $25 fee to turn it back on.
Not sure if you have a separate irrigation meter? Arnold says if you have two meters, they would be side by side or one on top of the other.
She says make sure you aren't turning the meter on and off yourself.
“If there's one of these blue tags on the meter, that means our department turned off the meter and really Department of Public Utilities should be the only people turning it back on,” she said.
Another good habit to get into so you don't end up with bill shock: If you have an irrigation meter you know is separate, make certain on your bill that there are two meters listed when you are using both of them.