Chicago

Getting Hosed: A woman fights the City over a water bill she never should have received and wins — at a cost of more than $12,000

CHICAGO (CBS) — Getting Hosed, our exposé on Chicago’s unhealthy water billing, has saved customers a whole lot of 1000’s of {dollars}.

We additionally have a database of dozens of you whom we have but to get to. So we wished to know – what occurs should you tackle the City your self?

CBS 2 Investigator Brad Edwards – Mr. Water Bill himself – discovered an inspiring answer.

Every water bill we have seemed into in 4 years is incorrect. In our pattern set, on common, they inflated more than 80 %.

And if you wish to battle your baloney water bill all your self, odds are you may lose. But one extraordinary woman who discovered herself getting hosed stands out as an exception.

“It’s beyond debt collecting,” stated Deborah Karim. “It’s almost like being a financial and credit serial killer.”

And Karim might know higher than any. She had been embroiled in a near-decade-long battle over a water bill of more than $12,000 that should have been zero.

It all began for Karim in 2013. She fought the Water Department on her personal – and gained.

She advised us her story after seeing our battle to get incorrect water payments righted.

“Since I got hosed, I want to expose,” Karim stated.

Karim suffers from coronary heart illness – which makes her arms waver. But her conviction most assuredly doesn’t.

Karim wrote to Edwards in February. She wrote that she felt like she had been “in a 15-round boxing match.”

“I was a real estate investor. 2008 was an economic collapse. All my eggs were in one basket, and it was very, very painful. It’s painful now to talk about it,” Karim stated. “But when the Chicago Water Department shut off the water, we were forced to buy water at the store.”

Karim left Chicago in the wake of the monetary disaster.

“If you’re going to be homeless, Florida is the place to be,” she stated. “I think it’s 80 degrees right now.”

And earlier than Karim lost her American dream to foreclosures, the two-flat she owned fell into disrepair.

“No utilities running. Pipes busted. Ceilings caved in. Walls collapsed,” she stated.

That’s proper – no utilities, pipes busted. Yet in 2013, the metropolis hit Karim with a water bill for $1,030.02.

So Karim went to court docket earlier than the Department of Administrative Hearings – like visitors court docket for water payments.

At her listening to, a decide stated the metropolis didn’t have sufficient proof to show Karim used any water. Note once more that she was in Florida, and the pipes have been busted.

So it was over, proper?

Wrong.

Six years later at a listening to in 2019, a City lawyer stated, “Because there is evidence that the water was on, the City did bill accordingly.”

The City was on Karim once more – this time for $12,672.70.

And once more, what did Karim say the circumstances have been at the property for which she was being billed?

“No utilities running. Pipes busted.”

So how did this occur? You guessed it. There was an unmetered account concerned.

Karim and 180,000 different Chicagoans have unmetered accounts. They aren’t billed on utilization, however typically unhealthy guesstimates.

“I think the system is rigged,” Karim stated.

In Karim’s case she was preventing payments that had already been declared bogus six years prior.

It’s like the City is not speaking to the City. It’s all silos – the Water Department, the Finance Department, the Administrative Hearing Department.

Karim gathered each bill and each shutoff discover – for a file she says paperwork “eight years of hell.” She submitted numerous public data – together with one for the audio of her 20-13 court docket victory.

She performed that recording for the decide at her new listening to, as a City lawyer fought her. At the 2019 administrative listening to, that is what occurred:

Karim: “May I play the audio, your honor, that’s related?”

City Attorney: “I guess, I would object on relevance.”

Judge: “I’ll listen to it.”

Oh, it was related in any case.

“I am finding in favor of the respondent and against the City,” the decide later stated, “and I am dismissing the case.”

Karim gained, once more.

“What we went through probably would have made some people give up,” she stated.

Indeed most would. For only one journey again from Florida for one court docket date on Nov. 6 of final year, it cost Karim $1,803.40 between airline tickets, a lodge room, a rental automobile, and different bills. And sure, she has receipts.

But Karim didn’t fly in for a court docket date simply as soon as. All advised, she made seven such journeys preventing the case.

In all, she spent $12,623.80 for that. The water bill she was preventing was $12,672.70. Subtract the former quantity from the latter, and what do you have?

$48.90. That’s it.

And that is money that was never truly owed in the first place. In actuality, Karim spent numerous hours – and $12,623.80, with nothing to subtract it from – for a bill that a judge-deemed faux bill.

“And I think – honestly, I think they’re making millions over there,” Karim stated.

Since 2012, the City has netted $127,779,286.22 in judgments, fines, and sanctions – and we do not know many Deborah Karims are in there. We can say, since 2012, of the 138,076 instances known as to water bill court docket, Karim’s was one of solely 30 to be dismissed.

In the finish, Karim did not actually win.

“Stop those settlements for thousands of dollars that you don’t owe,” Karim stated.

And Chicago lost too. It lost Karim – a good citizen who fights for proper.

“Fight,” she stated. “Fight back.”

So what about the money Karim lost to win – the $12,000-plus she spent on flights, lodging, and different bills? Yes, she might get it again – however she’d have to sue to do it. And that might cost – you bought it, more money.

Karim is searching for a lawyer to tackle her case. If you are that lawyer, tell us.

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