MAYOR ADAMS DEMANDS WATER BILL DODGERS TO PAY DEBT OR RISK LOSING WATER ACCESS

 New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Rohit T. Aggarwala today announced that the city has initiated the next phase of its expanded collection enforcement actions against approximately 2,400 chronically-delinquent water service accounts that owe the city a total of $102 million. As part of the effort, DEP will send out ‘Water Shutoff Notices’ to these customers, informing them that water service to their property could be shut off unless the entire owed amount is paid or they enter into a payment agreement within the next 15 days. This enforcement action is targeted towards commercial properties, including hotels, office buildings, and retail spaces, as well as one-to-three family homes that have not responded to any of DEP’s extensive outreach efforts over the past year. Earlier this year, DEP sent out ‘Water Shutoff Warning’ letters, which resulted in the agency recouping more than $3 million dollars from more than 400 overdue accounts.

“We gave these delinquent customers a chance to clear their water debts and save millions on interest through our water amnesty program, and while more than 100,000 took us up on our reasonable offer, a small percentage of customers incorrectly made the mistake of thinking they could get away with stiffing their fellow New Yorkers without any accountability,” said Mayor Adams. “We’re not going to allow big commercial properties and others leave the rest of us holding their water bills. DEP is sending ‘Water Shutoff Notices’ to 2,400 chronically-delinquent customers who owe over $102 million in unpaid bills. While we aim to work with these customers one last time, we will not look away while landlords and property owners ignore their obligations to their neighbors and their city.”

“DEP is serious about collecting the outstanding money owed from delinquent accounts and we will be shutting off water service for customers that don’t resolve their overdue bills,” said DEP Commissioner Aggarwala. “Delinquent customers who refuse to pay their water bills force everyone else to pay higher rates. That is simply not right, and it must stop. Everyone must pay their fair share to support our critical water system.”

During the pandemic, DEP saw a significant increase in the number and balance of delinquent accounts. The total of delinquent payments nearly doubled to $1.2 billion, which threatened the operations and capital needs of a service the city could not survive without. In 2023, DEP initiated a successful amnesty program that helped more than 100,000 New Yorkers reduce their water bill debts, while saving them more than $22 million in interest. Of the nearly 200,000 customers who owed money on late water bills when the program started, more than 50 percent participated in the popular program — bringing in nearly $105 million in payments from substantially past due accounts. To help low-income customers, during the amnesty program, DEP granted $8 million in additional billing credits to those accounts that had participated in New York state’s Low Income Homeowner Water Assistance Program.

Shutting off water service can have serious consequences and may subject property owners to code violations by the New York City Department of Buildings, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the Fire Department of the City of New York, as well as the potential for an Order to Vacate the Premises. Water service shutoffs may also affect a property owner’s insurance policy and/or mortgage. Additionally, a loss of water could impact a property’s heating system; owners should consult whoever maintains the property’s boiler or furnace as to whether any special actions must be taken if there is a loss of water.

Money recouped through enforcement actions will be used by DEP to keep water rates low for all customers, and all bill payments are used to fund maintenance, upgrades, and repairs to almost 15,000 miles of water and sewer mains, 19 reservoirs, 12,000 rain gardens, and 14 wastewater resource recovery facilities. Nearly half the population of New York state enjoys New York City’s tap water.

Customers with chronically delinquent water bills who previously received a ‘Water Shutoff Warning’ letter in the mail are now receiving a ‘Water Shutoff Notice’ instructing them to resolve their outstanding balances or enter into a payment agreement with DEP within 15 days.

If balances are not resolved within that timeframe, DEP will begin the process of shutting off water service. Outstanding accounts will have a ‘Water Shutoff Notice’ posted on their property’s front door and the street or sidewalk in front of the property will be spray painted to indicate where the service line will be disconnected from the DEP water main. If water service is shut off, affected customers will be required to pay a $1,000 restoration fee and pay the past due balance in full, or enter into a payment agreement with a 25 percent down payment, in order to have their service restored.

Customers can make payments or enter into a payment agreement online, by calling 866-622-8292, paying in-person at a borough office, or by mailing in payment to the New York City Water Board. Convenience fees apply to credit/debit card payments, but no fee is charged by the Water Board if payment is made by a checking or savings account. DEP also offers a number of financial assistance programs to assist property owners in paying their water bills, including a leak forgiveness program and a multi-family water assistance program.

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