Newburgh homeowner hit with $10K water bill for vacant, single-family rental
A City of Newburgh man who owns an empty, single-family home says he’s stumped by a $10,609.32 water bill when no one's been there.
Jose Peralta got the invoice mid-October for a whopping 610,000 gallons of water use at his rental property on South Street after he complained about his Oct. 2 bill being too high.
An Olympic-size pool holds 490,000 gallons of water.
Peralta says he first received a $327.46 bill for the same three-month period, for 18,000 gallons, which he thought was high since he says the unit has been vacant during that time frame.
He says he asked the City of Newburgh Water Department to recheck the meter and was then hit with the bill he owes now, for 32 times more than he originally owed.
“It’s impossible. There must be some type of malfunction, and they’re not willing to further look into it. Maybe there’s a water leak, but no one’s reported that and I haven’t seen any signs of leaks on the property,” says Peralta.
The City of Newburgh says it believes Peralta has a leak and flagged the abnormal use right away. They say it tried to contact Peralta multiple times for weeks and claims he ignored their calls, emails and letters. It also claims he admitted to having tenants in the home.
Peralta says that's not true and denies having any leaks. He says he never received any calls or messages from the city and was given two weeks to pay the five-figure bill before accruing hundreds of dollars in penalties.
According to Peralta’s adjusted Oct. 2 bill, he owes $11,670.25 if not paid by Nov. 3.
City officials say under city code, Peralta can request a meter test be conducted by a licensed plumber but that if his meter is found in working order, he’ll be required to pay the bill with penalties.
Peralta says he reached out the mayor for help to no avail.
Orange County Legislator Genesis Ramos, who represents Newburgh, says she spoke to Peralta after News 12's report to help get to the bottom of the bill. Ramos says she was able to additionally determine that, according to the city, Peralta was paying meter estimates for the last two years and that the charges are a result of the difference based on a recent meter reading.
"He would like to negotiate the bill, or at minimum, get more time to pay it," says Ramos. "Most folks don't have $10,000 readily available, and he's very stressed about this now past-due bill he can't afford. It seems as if there's a lack of flexibility from the city. I will do my best to try to connect with folks in city government to support a resolution."