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Getting Hosed: Rogers Park woman going to court over inflated water bill her condo association can't afford

Rogers Park woman prepared for battle over bad water bills
Rogers Park woman prepared for battle over bad water bills 03:00

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A Rogers Park woman said she is preparing for a David-and-Goliath fight, and her giant is the city's Department of Water Management.

As CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reported, the woman's case will finally be heard in court on Friday. The CBS 2 Investigators have been uncovering problems such as this one for years as part of our Getting Hosed series on bad water bills – but this is one of the few cases we've seen get this far.

Connie Abels has been waiting five years for her hearing.

"I got an email back Monday saying they won't settle," Abels said. "OK, then we're prepared for battle."

Abels brought us into her war room. Her table is covered with legal documents.

"I've easily spent a solid, I mean, 100 hours, easily," she said.

Abels' four-unit, 13-resident condo association can't afford a lawyer, so she is studying up every detail of her five-year fight.

A city employee says a meter was changed at the building. The city's Water Department says it wasn't. So where does that leave Abels?

"Well, with a $19,000 bill," she said.

How did a $300 dollar bi-monthly bill turn into $19,035.65?

"In July of 2018, we got a $2,300 bill," Abels said.

The city claimed there must have been a leak, but an independent contractor came out to check — and found nothing. The only thing different that Abels noticed was a spliced transmitter, which was noted in department records reviewed by CBS 2.

Then, like magic, after a few billing cycles, the readings returned to normal - even though nothing was done to the meter or the system.

"They said we fixed it," Abels said. "We fixed nothing. There was nothing to fix."

The condo association didn't have the money to pay for the that mystery spike.

"Why should I put on a payment plan what we didn't use?" she said.

That is how Abels - who has no legal background – found herself prepping for a hearing in court. We asked the city how many cases get to "water court," but so far have received no response.

"Oh I am getting hosed," Abels said, "and I hope to turn that hose around tomorrow."

Abels said she is taking legal action because inflated water bills are cost-prohibitive for the little guys and gals like her.

"If I am successful tomorrow, I hope that this would be a precedent for other people who have been hosed to be able to go back to the city," Abels said.

The Water Department told us — again — that it is their policy not to comment on specific cases.

We also asked about the possible outcomes of the hearing. There was no response to that question either.

We will keep following up. 

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