Baltimore City Water Bill Complaints

I heard on the news today the problems that my fellow Baltimore City citizens are having with erroneous water bills charged by the City. In some cases, the City is billing for thousands of gallons per day. I faced a similar problem a year ago–I made repeated calls and, despite promises to investigate, I had to draft a lawsuit and send it to Baltimore City’s lawyer before anything got done. Here is a copy of what I sent:

IN THE DISTRICT COURT FOR BALTIMORE CITY, MARYLAND

JOHN CORD
3 Talbott Avenue, Suite 100
Timonium, Maryland 21093
 
          Plaintiff
 
v.
 
Baltimore City
City Hall, Room 250
100 N. Holliday Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21202
 
SERVE: City Solicitor
         100 N. Holliday Street, Suite 101
         Baltimore, Maryland 21202
 
          Defendant

CASE NO. ___________________

COMPLAINT

COME NOW the Plaintiff, John Cord and files this Complaint against Defendant, Baltimore City, and state as follows:

FACTS

  1. Plaintiff is a resident of Baltimore City, Maryland.

  2. Defendant is a local governmental entity, pursuant to Md. Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-301(d).

  3. Plaintiff moved into his residence at REDACTED in Baltimore City on REDACTED. The property had been vacant since it was built, and the first water meter reading by Defendant Baltimore City stated that the meter was at 168 on March 3, 2010. Plaintiff effectively used water at this property for seven days before the meter reading on May 14, 2010.

  4. Since moving in, Plaintiff has been issued four water bills from Baltimore City. Three have been paid. The fourth is not due until April 11, 2011. Plaintiff anticipates paying that bill before trial of this matter.

  5. The details for the water bills are as follows:

    Reading Date Meter Consumption Bill
    05/14/201018012$76.96
    08/16/201020222$143.17
    12/08/201024543$278.78
    02/09/201026318$121.06

  6. After the first water bill, Plaintiff was concerned about his water consumption and began to limit water usage. Plaintiff checked the toilets for leaks, and fixed a very minor leak in one toilet.

  7. At the time of the second water bill, Plaintiff continued to be concerned about his water usage. Plaintiffs further restricted water usage, and contacted BG&E Home to perform an inspection. BG&E Home installed a low flow shower head and low flow bathroom faucets.

  8. At the time of the third water bill, Plaintiff contacted a plumber to search for water leaks. The plumber fixed a minor toilet leak, and inspected the property for other leaks. He examined the water meter and confirmed that there were no significant unknown leaks.

  9. In light of increasing water bills, despite what should have been decreasing water usage, Plaintiff telephonically contacted Defendant regarding the water bill on December 21, 2010. Plaintiff informed Defendant’s agent, servant and/or employee that he believed the water bills were incorrect and based on inaccurate meter readings. Defendant’s agent, servant and/or employee assured Plaintiff that they would be out to inspect the meter within 15 days (by January 5), and a report would be issued shortly thereafter.

  10. Two weeks after their self-imposed deadline, on January 19, 2011, Plaintiff contacted Defendant regarding the water bill. Defendant’s agent, servant and/or employee informed Plaintiff that they had not yet investigated the water meter readings.

  11. On February 24, 2011, Plaintiff again contacted Defendant regarding the water bill. Defendant’s employee or agent of the Defendant informed Plaintiff that she would contact a supervisor, and requested ten days to investigate.

  12. That ten day period expired on March 6, 2011. Defendants have yet to contact Plaintiff regarding whether any investigation has been conducted, or what the results of any investigation were.

  13. On March 12, 2011, the water meter reading for REDACTED was 84.78. The meter for Plaintiff’s next door neighbor is kept in the same underground location. The meter reading for Plaintiff’s next-door neighbor was 277.00 on March 12, 2011.
  14. COUNT I: UNJUST ENRICHMENT

  15. Plaintiff incorporates all previous paragraphs as if stated herein.

  16. Plaintiff contracted with Defendant for the provision of water to their property at REDACTED.

  17. The Defendant agreed to provide Plaintiff with water to the property at REDACTED upon demand. In exchange, Plaintiff agreed to pay to pay stated rates for his water usage.

  18. Defendant breached this contract by charging Plaintiff for water usage in excess of what Plaintiff actually used.

  19. Defendant has been unjustly enriched by money paid by Plaintiff in excess of what Defendant was owed, and in excess of the water used by Plaintiff.

  20. The payments made by Plaintiff has conferred a benefit upon Defendant in the amount of Five Hundred and Two Dollars and Seventy-Six Cents ($502.76), with at least an additional One Hundred and Twenty-One Dollars and Six Cents ($121.06) anticipated to be paid before trial of this matter.

  21. Defendant has been made aware of the inaccurate water meter readings and resulting inaccurate water bills. In issuing those bills and accepting payment, Defendant was aware of, and had knowledge of, the benefits conferred upon it by Plaintiff during this period.

  22. Defendant’s acceptance and retention of the payments made by Plaintiff after Defendant had knowledge of the inaccurate water meter readings and bills make it inequitable for Defendant to retain those benefits.

    WHEREFORE, Plaintiff demands judgment in the amount of Six Hundred and Twenty-Three Dollars and Eighty-Two Cents ($623.82), plus any additional money paid to Defendant prior to trial, plus costs, attorneys’ fees, pre-judgment interest, post-judgment interest at the applicable rate, and any and all other relief to which this Court finds him entitled.

  23. COUNT II: BREACH OF CONTRACT

  24. Plaintiff incorporates all previous paragraphs as if stated herein.

  25. Plaintiff contracted with Defendant for the provision of water services.

  26. Defendant provided those services, but overcharged Plaintiff for the value of those services. Defendant’s overcharging is a material breach of the terms of the contract.

  27. Plaintiff incurred other consequential damages as a result of Defendant’s failure to properly report Plaintiff’s water usage. Plaintiff hired a plumber in order to ascertain whether there were unknown leaks on the property after Defendant’s erroneous meter readings. These measures were taken after Plaintiff’s limitation on water consumption appeared to have no effect. Plaintiff would not have initiated these measures but for Defendant’s failure to properly report Plaintiff’s water usage. The total for these services is One Hundred and Eighty-Eight Dollars ($188.00)

    WHEREFORE, Plaintiff demands judgment in the amount of One Hundred and Eighty-Eight Dollars ($188.00), plus costs, attorneys’ fees, pre-judgment interest, post-judgment interest at the applicable rate, and any and all other relief to which this Court finds him entitled.
  28. COUNT III: INJUNCTIVE RELIEF

  29. Plaintiff incorporates all previous paragraphs as if stated herein.

  30. Defendant promised on multiple occasions to have the water meter applicable to Plaintiff’s property examined and re-read. Defendant indicated that it would issue a report on their findings.

  31. In light of Defendant’s repeated failure to perform this inspection, Plaintiff’s water bills will continue to be inaccurate and Plaintiff will continue to be charged for water that he does not use.

  32. There exists a strong likelihood that Plainitiff will succeed on the merits of his claim.

  33. Unless Defendant is ordered by this Court to inspect the water meter and correct future readings, Plaintiff will suffer immediate, substantial and irreparable injury.

  34. The benefits to Plaintiff in obtaining injunctive relief is equal to or outweighs the potential harm which Defendant would incur if this Court grants the requested injunctive relief.

  35. The public interest is best served by granting the injunction.

    WHEREFORE, Plaintiff demands that this Court issue an Order granting Plaintiff an injunction requiring Defendant to inspect Plaintiff’s water meter, and to correct the meter reading on all future bills issued to Plaintiff; and further that Plaintiff be granted costs and such other and further relief as this Court may deem just and proper.



Respectfully submitted,

Posner & Cord, LLC
__________________________
John J. Cord
3 Talbott Avenue, Suite 100
Timonium, Maryland 210993
(410) 252-0600
(443) 578-4687 (Fax)
jcord@charmcitylawyer.com
www.charmcitylawyer.com