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Getting Hosed: North Lawndale landlord's water bill jumps from $200 to $20,000 for one month

Getting Hosed: Landlord's water bill jumps from $200 to nearly $20,000 for one month.
Getting Hosed: Landlord's water bill jumps from $200 to nearly $20,000 for one month. 02:53

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Over the years, we've told you all about the numerous of people Getting Hosed by the antiquated City of Chicago water billing system.

Now, a North Lawndale neighborhood family is on the hook for more than $20,000 for water they claim it would have been impossible to use.

As CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reported, Yasser Almanaseer's family was used to paying $200 a month for water for the building they own. But then out of the blue, one bill was almost $20,000.

And Almanaseer said he has had no luck in getting it fixed.

Almanaseer's family has owned the four-story North Lawndale building for about six years. He said three of the four units are currently occupied, while the ground-level unit is vacant.

The water wasn't even a thought until the Almanaseers had their meter replaced at the end of 2020.

The next bill in September 2021 — for a period in which they'd usually spend less than $2,000 on water — claimed they had used a whopping $19,307 worth of H20.

"Initially, we thought it was just a mistake – maybe they had the wrong account, wrong meter," Almanaseer said.

He did the math.

"The water pipe would have had to have been running for 27 hours a day for 300 days straight for that much water to have been used," Almanaseer said.

And the next bill was back to normal.

"Since that one bill that we had that came out of nowhere, we really haven't any issues," Almanaseer said.

He has a meter to show him what is happening as the water is running.

Almanaseer touched base with a Department of Water Management customer service representative, who said he needed to bring in a certified plumber to make sure there were no leaks. Almanaseer did so, and the plumber said there wasn't a leak to be found – issuing a certified letter saying as much.

But Almanaseer said the city still wouldn't fix the bill.

"I'm sure we're not the only ones that are having this similar problem," he said.

Almanaseer is right. Just in the last few months, we've spoken to several Chicago homeowners who contacted the CBS 2 Investigators with their nonsensically high water bills.

So he says he is speaking up not only to get his bill fixed — but to push for safeguards to keep it from happening in the future.

"And that's kind of the purpose of these remote electronic metered accounts is to be able to prevent these things from happening and make sure that water isn't being wasted," Almanaseer said.

The Chicago Department of Finance said they do not comment on individual accounts. But Almanaseer confirmed that he did get a call from the city soon after we reached out — saying they'd be taking a closer look at the bill.

The city said customers are encouraged to see if they qualify for the Utility Billing Relief Program. The program provides a 50 percent reduction to a customer's water, sewer, and water-sewer taxes – as well as debt forgiveness.

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