$5,900 water bill blindsides Harnett County woman who owns vacant property

Diane Wilson Image
Thursday, August 25, 2022
Woman blindsided with $5,900 water bill for vacant property
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"No water, not one drop of Harnett County water could I have used from this property."

LILLINGTON, N.C. (WTVD) -- A Harnett County woman got a bill for water and sewer usage for more than $5,000 even though she never used a single drop of water.

"It was a vacant lot just as you see it now," Melinda Berryman said.

The vacant lot has no home on it and it's been like that since Berryman bought the Harnett County property back in 2009.

"I realized maybe five years into owning the property that I had received a bill and the bill said that I owed for water."

Berryman said due to address changes, she never got the bill from Harnett Regional Water until it added up to more than $5,900.

"I actually thought that it was a mistake that I was being sent the bill -- that it was an error," she said.

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However, it's no mistake, despite no home on the lot and Berryman saying she never signed up for water or sewage service, every month she was charged $35.00, plus a $10.00 late fee since she never paid the bill from Harnett Regional Water.

"I had zero water usage -- zero sewer usage. No water, not one drop of Harnett County water could I have used from this property or being consumed," Berryman said.

That bill eventually turned into collections, and Berryman says she tried to dispute it.

"Is there any way we can remedy this and they told me no that I owed it," she said to Troubleshooter Diane Wilson. Wilson got in touch with Harnett Regional Water and a representative told her, "As per the County of Harnett's ordinance, the owner of a property is to be charged a minimum monthly water/sewer fee whether water is used or not during that month. This is a dry tap/availability fee bill to each service to have the services available for use. Not knowing the intentions of the customer for the property, the account continued to be billed. We have reached out to our customer several times by mail to the address listed below and to my knowledge she has not contacted our office directly. She has only contacted the collection agency. We are willing to work with the customer in this matter and she may contact our office to do so."

Berryman worked with Harnett Regional Water who agreed to close Berryman's account, waive the $5,900 worth of charges, and remove water and sewer services at her lot. If services are ever wanted at Berryman's lot, fees to reopen with water and sewer services will apply.

This is a good reminder that when you get a bill you don't feel you're responsible for, take action right away. Don't let it go, as it will not go away on its own.

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