ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – An Orange County couple recently got a huge surprise and an unexpected expense, neither of which they needed while already stressed out over planning their wedding.
The couple said their water bill soared to triple digits, and they didn’t know what was causing the problem.
Joseph Peluso and his fiancée are getting married next month, but bubbling in the background of their big day is a major concern about water after their water bill hit triple digits.
“My jaw dropped,” Peluso said. “Because it’s a lot of money.”
The couple moved into their Orange County home four months ago. Their first bill last September was $27. In October, after their first full month in the home, they received a bill for $50. In November, they started running their irrigation and saw their first spike.
“Overall, we were a little skeptical. We didn’t say anything about it,” Peluso said.
If that one made them lift a brow, the next bill took their breath away. In December, it increased to $712.42.
“That’s someone’s rent,” Peluso said.
Their water consumption was puzzling.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average usage for a household with two people is 5,280 gallons per month.
Peluso and his fiancée used 70,000 gallons in one month, according to their bill.
The owner of the property hired a plumber who inspected the toilets, pipes and faucets.
While they were trying to diagnose the problem, Peluso says the utility company was focused on the payment.
“They’re like, ‘Well, you’re going (to) get your water shut off if you don’t go on this payment plan,’” Peluso said. “I’m not comfortable giving money to them right now, until I figure out what the problem is."
When News 6 contacted Orange County Utilities, spokesperson Jamie Floer said the company was working with Peluso.
"We have visited the property multiple times to confirm the meter is working accurately and to assist the customer in identifying the root cause of the higher consumption," Floer wrote in an email.
Peluso said he was questioned: “Did you do this, did you do that? Did you leave your faucets running?”
The owner later hired an irrigation company that discovered the irrigation system had a leak, causing the high consumption.
News 6 found Orange County Utilities has a leak adjustment request form that was put in place in 2012.
If you have a problem, it requires the customer submit a copy of the repair invoice and the payment receipt, along with an explanation of the repairs performed, and your bill can be adjusted.
Peluso and his fiancée are no longer responsible for that $700 bill.
They are relieved about that. However, there are other rules that apply to the leak adjustment program. You can read the rules here.
When something like this happens, it is important to keep customer service in the loop, according to Floer.
If you are having a plumber come out to diagnose the problem, give customer service representatives the date that’s expected to happen so they can note your account. Be sure to report the results to them as soon as possible.
Keep them involved in the process so that they know you're working on it, and they are more likely to work with you.
Keep in mind, every utility company has its own set of rules governing these issues, but the key is to communicate with customer service.