York County home with no plumbing hit with $1,200 autopaid water bill

FAIRVIEW TWP., YORK CO., Pa. (WHTM) – He says it would be like flushing money down the toilet if the house only had one toilet.

Mike Shreffler doesn’t know what’s most shocking: a $1,287 sewer bill after two years of bills that never surpassed $12 — or the fact that he received the four-digit bill for a home with no plumbing.

Pennsylvania-American Water bills were so routinely $11 bills that Shreffler didn’t know about the big bill until his bank told him the money was gone — automatically from Pa. American confiscated, as did the $11 bills that triggered an overdraft protection.

“I have multiple accounts with them,” Shreffler said. “And every month they just do the same thing. They withdraw money for all my accounts. I’m not looking at anything.”

Shreffler says he bought the home in question two years ago and immediately began remodeling it to later rent it out to renters. This work goes on. The house has no plumbing. No toilets, no showers, no dishwasher or washing machine.

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When he looked at the bill, Shreffler could see that the utility had credited him for all the bills under $12 he’d paid for the past two years, but had been billing him over $75 a month for the entirety of that time.

He called the company and said an agent told him they could not find out what happened – one of three calls he made this week, with the last two instances assuring the matter was being escalated. An investigation could take up to 30 days, he said, agents said, at which point he could get a refund if the company agreed the bill was in error.

“They take up to 30 days to research,” he said. “But it didn’t take them 30 days to settle it.”

Shreffler says research should be easy.

“I invited her to physically come to the house and look at it,” he said Thursday. “You can physically come out and inspect it — you know, confirm there’s no water coming into the house and nothing going out of the house at all.”

Not convinced that a solution was imminent, he called abc27, the Pa. American contacted.
“We are committed to billing our customers accurately and fixing any billing errors,” a spokesman told abc27 News in an emailed statement. “This customer brought their billing issue to our attention three days ago and we immediately investigated and fixed the issue and refunded the collection fee [Wednesday] and sending an email and letter explaining the situation. We will also reach out to the customer directly to discuss reimbursement of overdraft fees and fees owed.”

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abc27 News contacted Shreffler to verify this account: maybe he missed an email message and the refund?

He double checked it. No email and no money, he said.

And then something worse: a call from a Mechanicsburg-based agent in the utility’s Customer Relations department — according to Shreffler — saying the big bill was correct. All along, the agent said, for someone who just doesn’t flush anything, Shreffler should have been charged a much higher “unmetered” rate than the $11 (which itself was less than $7 over two years had risen).

The solution, according to Shreffler’s characterization of the conversation: Pa. American will install a counter on Friday. Shreffler isn’t sure how that’s going to happen, considering there’s nothing to hook a gauge to. In any case, the agent said, that should lower Shreffler’s bills going forward, but he would still be responsible for the sudden $1,287 bill for the last two years.
abc27 again contacted the utility and provided the agent’s name and phone number that Shreffler had provided. It’s all a mistake – right?

This time the speaker was less engaged.

“We apologized to the customer for the lack of communication and will continue to work with them to resolve this issue in accordance with our rates and services, which are governed by the PA Public Utility Commission,” the spokesman wrote. “Due to the ongoing nature of this billing dispute, we will be working directly with the customer going forward.”

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