Toronto residents hit with huge, unexplained water bill increases are still expected to pay, the city’s ombudsman has found.
In an investigative report released Wednesday, Omudsman Fiona Crean said her office had received a “steady stream” of complaints about sudden and unexpected increases.
Her report, Water Works, highlighted six cases including an elderly woman living alone whose bill went up five-fold to $1,292 in March, 2011, compared to a normal bill of $180 to $250.
The city wouldn’t adjust the bill, for water use from Nov. 17, 2010 to Feb. 25, 2011, because no city error could be found.
When the woman complained, the city “asked whether she had filled her pool or used the sprinkler more than usual between November and February.”
“Mrs. M. does not have a pool and would not have been using it or a sprinkler in the winter anyway,” the report said.
A plumber found no water leaks in the home and the meter tested accurate.
Crean is recommending a rule change to give officials discretion to adjust bills when there’s a sudden spike not explained by a meter test or leak check.