November 28, 2023


Creative meets living

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 only the house even had a toilet.

Mike Shreffler doesn’t know what’s most shocking: a $1,287 sewer bill after two years of bills that never topped $12 — or the fact that he got the four-figure bill for a house that has no plumbing.

The bills from Pennsylvania-American Water were so routinely $11-something that Shreffler didn’t know about the big bill until his bank notified him the money was gone — drafted automatically by Pa. American, just like the $11 bills and triggering overdraft protection.

“I have several accounts with them,” Shreffler said. “And every month they just do the same thing. They take out money for all my accounts. I don’t look at anything.”

Shreffler says he bought the house in question two years ago and immediately began gut-remodeling it to later rent to tenants. That work continues. The house has no plumbing fixtures. No toilets, no showers, no dishwasher or clothes washing machine.

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Once he looked at the bill, Shreffler could tell the utility had credited him for all the sub-$12 bills he had paid the past two years but re-billed him more than $75 per month for the whole time.

He called the company and says an agent told him they couldn’t figure out what had happened — one of three calls he said he made this week, the latter two cases assured the matter was being escalated. An investigation could take up to 30 days, he says agents told him, at which point he could be refunded if the company agreed the bill was an error.

“It takes them up to 30 days to research,” he said. “It didn’t take them 30 days to bill it, though.”

Shreffler says the research should be easy.

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

Unconvinced a resolution was imminent, he called abc27, which contacted Pa. American.
“We’re committed to accurately billing our customers and resolving any billing errors,” a spokesman told abc27 News in an emailed statement. “This customer alerted us to his billing issue three days ago, and we investigated and corrected the issue immediately, refunding the draft charge [Wednesday] and sending an email and letter explaining the situation. We will also be reaching out to the customer directly to discuss refunding the overdraft fees and owed charges.”

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abc27 News contacted Shreffler to confirm that account: Perhaps he had overlooked an email message and the refund?

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

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

The solution, according to Shreffler’s characterization of the conversation: Pa. American will install a meter Friday. Shreffler isn’t sure how that will happen, considering he says there’s nothing to connect a meter 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 previous two years.
abc27 again contacted the utility, relaying the agent’s name and phone number, which Shreffler had provided. All surely a mistake — correct?

This time, the spokesman was less committal.

“We have apologized to the customer for the lack of communication and will continue working with him 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 with the customer directly going forward.”

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