News Feature | August 17, 2017

High Water Bills Force Families From Homes

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

eviction.reg

Water bills sometimes force families out of their homes — a problem that has afflicted people across the country.

Sarah Plunkett of Belton, MO, moved her family out of a mobile home she had occupied for five years as a result of a high water bill, according to Fox4KC.

“We’re being evicted because our water bill is outrageously high,” Plunkett said, per the report.

“Typically her family of six pays between $150-$200 a month for water. But in June their water bill was $425. In July it was a shocking $598,” the report said.

She disputed the accuracy of the bill with no success. Another family in the same mobile home park has faced a shockingly high water bill, as well.

“This month a judge ruled to evict the Plunketts, but the judge dismissed more than $600 of their outstanding water bill charges. The Plunketts have until the end of the month to move, but with an eviction on their record they are not sure who will take them,” the report said.

The Plunketts are not the only family to see their housing threatened by high water bills. For instance, under a new city policy in Flint, MI, failure to pay water bills could now lead to home foreclosures.

“Thousands of Flint, MI, residents have been warned that they could lose their homes if they don’t pay outstanding water bills — even as the city has just begun replacing lead-tainted pipes after a contamination crisis linked to a dozen deaths,” The Washington Post recently reported.

And in Detroit, a group of activists and university professors “said the city’s policy of shutting off water to those who don’t pay water bills is driving residents from their homes and exacerbating the city’s foreclosure crisis,” the Detroit Free Press reported.

Water affordability is a major challenge for utilities. Researchers say water may become unaffordable for one-third of U.S. households in the next five years.

A study published this year in the journal PLOS ONE mapped the location of high-risk households around the U.S. “Many of these households are clustered in pockets of water poverty within counties, which is a concern for individual utility providers servicing a large proportion of customers with a financial inability to pay for water services,” the study said.

Image credit: "Notice of eviction," M4XIM4GE © 2005, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/