NORFOLK-- When Monica Yancey discovered she had an overdue water bill of $7,598, she fought back against the City of Norfolk Public Utilities, and won.
For nearly five years, she never knew the 2008 bill existed.
The bill was for a rental home on Peronne Avenue in Norfolk. A tenant had just moved out and Yancey needed to get the home ready for a new resident.
"I was told that the service could not be turned on at that address, and when I questioned why, that's when I found out," says Yancey.
In 2008, shortly after another tenant moved out, pipes underneath the house were stolen. The missing pipes caused a leak that skyrocketed the bill. Those bills were forwarded to the new tenant who had just left because the account was in the tenant's name.
Yancey wondered why the bill was automatically transferred to the tenant. She adds that another tenant moved in 2009 and secured water service on the property with no problem.
"The water was just active. It was just on. So how was there an outstanding bill for that amount?" Yancey asked.
Norfolk Public Utilities says they sent Yancey a letter in 2011, but Yancey says she never received it. She adds that this was after the expiration of a three-year time limit to dispute a bill.
Attorney Kevin Duffan feels Yancey has a good argument.
"She could argue that she wasn't given notice of the switchover and it would the burden of the utility to prove that she was, in fact, under contract when the problem arose and was given proper notice," says Duffan.
Yancey says the city would only offer her a payment plan for the bill's entire amount, but after 13News Troubleshooters contacted public utilities, things began to change.
Yancey was offered a 75 percent reduction in her bill, reducing it to $1,600.
According to Public Utilities' spokesperson Harry Kenyon, reductions are given where there's a documented leak and a repair has been made. He adds, however, that after a property has been vacated by a tenant, the property owner is responsible for all water use until a new account is established in the new tenant's name.
Yancey was still troubled by the lack of notification on the part of the city.
"I think due diligence on their part would have been required to notify me," said Yancey.
13News Troubleshooters sent Kenyon one more email inquiring about the city's efforts to notify Yancey about the overdue bill.
Ninety minutes later, Yancey got a call that the bill was reduced to $0.
In an email, Kenyon writes, "Although I can’t discuss the details of a private account, we have reviewed this account and determined that the property owner was not responsible for the water use while the tenant’s account remained active."
Yancey now has water in her rental home and she's getting ready for a new tenant.