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Getting Hosed: Chicago landlord receives water bill for $10,000, with no warning about excessive use and no answers

Getting Hosed: Chicago landlord receives water bill for $10,000 with no warning
Getting Hosed: Chicago landlord receives water bill for $10,000 with no warning 02:34

CHICAGO (CBS) -- How does a City of Chicago water bill for $70 turn into a $10,000 tab from one bill to the next?

This is not the first time the CBS 2 Investigators have uncovered an inexplicable water bill like this as part of our "Getting Hosed" series.

CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey dug into the problem that one Chicago landlord has been trying to fix for a full year.

"It was nothing out of the ordinary - $50, usually, per bill - until I got the big one," said Jonathan Seezox.

The "big one" was a $9,912.54 bill that Seezox was mailed in May of last year for his single-family home that he rents out to a mom and her young daughter.

"I actually thought it was a phishing scam, so I contacted the Water Department," he said.

A scam it was not. The bill was actually from the city - claiming his tenant and her daughter used nearly 1 million gallons of water that billing cycle.

"It doesn't make sense," Seezox said.

He says he called over and over, and he couldn't get a straight answer about whether a city crew ever checked the meter. But his usage was back to normal by the next bill.

After months of no answers, Seezox had a state senator reach out on his behalf. The Citizens Utility Board also helped him file an informal complaint.

But a full year later, he continues to rack up a $250 late fee on every single bill.

We also found a broken water pipe cap lying out on the ground in front of Seezox's house – and not covering any pipe. Like the amount owed on his water bill, the cap is not where it should be.

"When a bill goes from $50 to $10,000, why is there not a system set up to alert the user before it gets to that amount?" Seezox said.

Seezox makes a good point. We couldn't find any information about a high usage alert online, and we reached out to the Department of Water Management to see if any program like that exists.

The District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority, on the other hand, offers high usage kind of alerts  to their customers.

A spokesperson said the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority has had great feedback from customers who have gotten an alert about higher-than-normal usage long before a massive bill.

Seezox says he'd love that option.

"Because I'm getting hosed. I know I'm not alone," Seezox, said, "and I think the more people who reach out to you, the more the water company will pay attention that there's something wrong."

The Chicago Department of Water Management said customers are notified of excessive use:

"Customers in houses and two-flats are automatically notified if their water meter is running continuously. This can be an indication that there is a break in the line on the property or a running toilet. If the property is not metered, there is no way to determine whether there is water loss occurring."

But Seezox says he never received a notification of any kind.

The Department of Finance confirmed to the CBS 2 Investigators that they will be reaching out to this homeowner to assist him regarding his water billing issue.

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