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How a running toilet can lead to financial RUIN!


DTEJD1997
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Hey all:

 

Another crazy story from the wilds of Detroit!

 

A running toilet can lead to financial RUIN!

 

A very close associate of mine has a house with several toilets in it.  One of them is in the basement and is seldom used.  Turns out this toilet was probably running for several weeks.

 

This person has "automated bill pay" for their water & sewer bills, which are normally about $80 a month.

 

So this month he has a $3,000 water bill.  This bill is automatically deducted from his checking account.  He was not expecting anything like this...so it leads to a cascade of "bounced" checks & fees & hassle.

 

This is a good reason NEVER to set up automated bill payment.  The municipality has his money now.  Good luck in contesting the bill and getting his money back.

 

In Detroit, water & sewer is SUPER expensive.  So expensive that some cities can't even pay for it.  So the suburbs have to have increased rates to pay for the cities that can't pay their water

 

http://www.fox2detroit.com/news/local-news/water-authority-suburbs-to-pay-highland-parks-unpaid-water-bills-of-30m

 

 

At one point, residents of Detroit were $90mm behind on their water bills.

 

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/07/27/detroit-not-alone-in-shutting-off-water-for-unpaid-bills/13228207/

 

There were also reports that about 60% of Detroit residents were 90+ days behind on their water bills.  This was before the big "crackdown".

 

Anyway, my associate has lost a tremendous amount of money.  Fortunately, he has the financial wherewithal to deal with the bill & it's cleanup. 

 

I wonder though how many others out there that have had a situation like this that are financially ruined?

 

 

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Luckily I've never had an experience like that. I live in the Nashville, TN area. Residential water bills are usually very low here.

 

I don't want to derail the thread DTEJD1997, but it would be great if you could comment on how things have (or haven't) improved in the Detroit metro since the city's 2013 bankruptcy.

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That’s for a single family 2 bath 900 Square foot new construction house. He didn’t pay it. (I should add it’s a one month bill)

 

My friend in New Orleans has this water bill framed in his guest bathroom. Automatic bank drafts can be dangerous!

 

Wow for some context roughly how many units does your friend own. I thought my water bill for properties were high maybe not..

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I would frame it too! Last year i started using the automatic sprinklers on the lawn. I received a call from the provider asking if I was aware of a leak cause my water bill was about 2.5x more than normal. I explained more water consumption cause of lawn. Just wow I  wouldn’t know what to do  if I saw that bill!

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DTEJD1997 maybe I don't get it.

 

As far as I can tell from your post, your associate did use the water he was that led to the bill. So he wasn't charged in error. He was actually liable for the whole amount.

 

In the case of automated payments if you have a large amount come through the payment will bounce and you get an NSF charge from the bank. Not ideal but not the end of the world. Automated payments are great for someone like me. I'm horrible with remembering all the bills I have and paying them on time. The cost for me in late payments, penalties, lower credit score, etc would be much greater than the odd NSF charge. A good idea in life is to not keep a lot of money in your chequing account. This helps avoid being debited for excessively large bills, also it's good security overall preventing a lot of types of thefts.

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The providers give  usually at least two weeks notice. Either via paper mail or sent to owners email. Not sure why your friend was surprised.

 

No notice was given here.  It is a 1 month bill.  My associate does not do the "electronic mails".

 

I seem to recall reading/hearing somewhere that the average American family has LESS than $500 in liquid assets.  Thus, for an "average" family, a $3k monthly water bill would be a financial catastrophe.

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Luckily I've never had an experience like that. I live in the Nashville, TN area. Residential water bills are usually very low here.

 

I don't want to derail the thread DTEJD1997, but it would be great if you could comment on how things have (or haven't) improved in the Detroit metro since the city's 2013 bankruptcy.

 

Generally speaking, things have moderately improved in Detroit since the bankruptcy.  Some areas have improved more than others though (downtown, midtown).  Some areas have gotten somewhat worse though?  The far Eastside is my area....and that part of Detroit has gotten rougher in some respects....but the good news is that some of the liquor stores that shut down have reopened! 

 

The river front has also improved moderately...along with East English Village and Indian Village.

 

As for the West side?  Hard to say, I don't get out there too much.

 

Industry and business is generally doing better.  It seems thought that it has really only started to get substantially better in the last 12-18 months. 

 

Detroit is a deeply cyclical place, so it frequently lags behind the rest of the country.

 

Real estate prices are up EVERYWHERE here...there are some houses selling for $25k-$50k in Detroit!!!!!!!!  Hard to believe that prices could get that high...prices in the suburbs have gone up drastically too.  Not back to pre-crash levels...but getting close.

 

So everyone is doing better here, some areas more than others.

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I seem to recall reading/hearing somewhere that the average American family has LESS than $500 in liquid assets.  Thus, for an "average" family, a $3k monthly water bill would be a financial catastrophe.

If you have a less than $500 in liquid assets then basically anything is a potential financial catastrophe.

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I seem to recall reading/hearing somewhere that the average American family has LESS than $500 in liquid assets.  Thus, for an "average" family, a $3k monthly water bill would be a financial catastrophe.

If you have a less than $500 in liquid assets then basically anything is a potential financial catastrophe.

 

lol. I simply love reading posts like this one from rb!

 

It's all about getting out of the financial swamp / quicksand, and to stay there [stay out], by not swimming naked. Some prefer more frothy waters than others, though.

[ : - ) ]

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DTejd,

 

I always love your posts.  There so filled with local colour.

 

Just for me to get this straight:  Detroit is located on not one, not two, but three bodies of water, at least.... okay two, if we dont count the St. Clair river cesspool.  We have the quite large Lake St. Clair, and the gigantic and quite clean (mostly) Lake Erie.  And Detroit has high water prices.  Boggles the mind. 

 

 

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I seem to recall reading/hearing somewhere that the average American family has LESS than $500 in liquid assets.  Thus, for an "average" family, a $3k monthly water bill would be a financial catastrophe.

If you have a less than $500 in liquid assets then basically anything is a potential financial catastrophe.

 

lol. I simply love reading posts like this one from rb!

 

It's all about getting out of the financial swamp / quicksand, and to stay there [stay out], by not swimming naked. Some prefer more frothy waters than others, though.

[ : - ) ]

 

Being a good saver and better than average investor has its benefits.  The ability to just pay for things you need or want is priceless.  Car breaks down... spend the 1400 to repair it.  Kids need something... just buy it.  Need a new (gently used) car... pay cash.  Need a 30,000 line of credit... just ask.  One doesn't want to go overboard but then frugality is a hard habit to break so thats generally not an issue. 

 

Now, I could do without a sudden bill for 96,000 but it wouldn't break us. 

 

I dont know how people live paycheck to paycheck, barely making their credit card interest payments.  The stress must be brutal. 

 

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DTEJD1997 maybe I don't get it.

 

As far as I can tell from your post, your associate did use the water he was that led to the bill. So he wasn't charged in error. He was actually liable for the whole amount.

 

In the case of automated payments if you have a large amount come through the payment will bounce and you get an NSF charge from the bank. Not ideal but not the end of the world. Automated payments are great for someone like me. I'm horrible with remembering all the bills I have and paying them on time. The cost for me in late payments, penalties, lower credit score, etc would be much greater than the odd NSF charge. A good idea in life is to not keep a lot of money in your chequing account. This helps avoid being debited for excessively large bills, also it's good security overall preventing a lot of types of thefts.

 

My associate is an elderly man.  I don't think he has EVER used the toilet in the basement in 15+ years...he had no knowledge it was running.

 

Here in Detroit, the water is most certainly expensive...but so is the sewer charge.

 

My associate maintains that he should be given a "pass" on the sewer charge as 99.9% of the water going into the sewer was "clean" water.  He did not use the toilet 45,000 times in one month.

 

It also boggles the mind how much water could POSSIBLY have gone through a running toilet?

 

It further boggles the mind that the Detroit/Michigan area is sitting on something like 1/3 of the world's fresh water supply.  YET, we have MORE expensive water than Texas and Las Vegas.

 

As time passes our local politicians & civil servants get more & more stupider....more & more corrupt!

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Of course it's not the water you are paying for - it is the maintenance of the aging infrastructure coupled with a smaller population.  Just like in New Orleans, where our water comes from the Mississippi river (near the end!  YUCK!) - we aren't paying for the water - we are paying for decades of deferred maintenance, subsidence, mismanagement, etc...  Rumor is that there are still hollow wood water pipes active in the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board system.  Water leaks, which cause sinkholes, are everywhere and remain unaddressed for months.  All the resources are spent putting out fires so there never seems to be a plan for comprehensive updating of the infrastructure.  We have boil water alerts regularly because water main breaks cause pressure to drop to some level that requires boil water advisories.

 

New Orleans' population is growing now, but shrunk for decades previously - and, of course, halved overnight in 2005.

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Just to expand on maintenance (and need to re-invest).

In their last 13-F, it shows that Fairfax has a position in Northwest Pipe Company.

From the company website and other sources, it appears that there is now a massive need for catch-up investments in water infrastructure.

 

Here's a nice article wrapping up the topic and touching on the plastic/metal controversy:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/10/climate/water-pipes-plastic-lead.html

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I had a similar situation occur recently in an unoccupied apartment with a plumbing leak in the shower and the water company was happy to give me a major discount on the bill. Clearly the water was used but they still offered to refund about 80% of the bill when I asked if there was anything they could do, and did it quite promptly. I know we have large volume pricing here where if you want to fill a swimming pool or something they'll cut you a break as well. Sorry to hear about your friend's case, might be worth calling to see if they'll give him a break. If the first person says no call back and hope you get someone else, the utility probably has a provision for plumbing issues.

 

Out of curiosity what did your friend's bill say the total amount used was? A constantly running toilet might do about 2 gallons per minute so 86,000 gallons a month.

 

 

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