Woman horrified after discovering £16,000 water bill that wasn’t a mistake
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A woman in Wales was left stunned when she received a water bill for almost £16,000 - and she was left double stunned when she realised it wasn't a mistake.
You occasionally hear horror stories about people being charged impossibly large sums due to administrative errors, but tragically Claire Fitzpatrick's mammoth bill was accurate.
The cosmetic product developer moved into her home in Bridgend early last year, and by the summer, the amount she owed to Welsh Water had 'suddenly and unexplainably shot up' into four figures.
The 47-year-old did what any of us would and checked her meter - located in the street outside her house - and saw that the numbers were 'spinning at 100 miles an hour'.
"I first realised something was wrong when when I was alerted by my bank about my monthly direct debit having gone up," the mum-of-two recalled.
"So I rang Welsh Water and was the told my outstanding balance was £3,823.27 - I couldn't believe it.
"After that an engineer came round, said he'd been inspecting the area and believed there was leak somewhere. I was then told that they'd had no luck locating it and that my driveway would probably have to be dug up."
Things were to get worse for Claire, though.
When she returned from holiday in August she found a huge hole had been dug outside her property, but they couldn't find the leak.
"So again they dug and again they couldn't find anything," she explained. "And they were back again earlier this week for a third attempt."
And when Claire was eventually hit with her six monthly bill, well, it was eye-watering. She owed Welsh Water £15,833.11.
"I was gobsmacked - they must think I'm operating a waterpark in the back garden," she said.
"Welsh Water have also said that, if they fail to find the leak, I'll have to pay to hire a private contractor to locate it. Until then my account apparently been frozen until a decision is made on what the next step should be.
"There's even been talk about a payment plan. I thought, 'You must be joking - there's no way I can afford to pay back nearly £16k.'"
A spokesperson for Dwr Cymru Welsh Water said: "We are aware of the leak at the customer's property and identified early on that the leak was not on our pipework but instead on the internal pipework of the property.
"While the responsibility of leaks on internal pipework does lie with the customer, we have as a gesture of goodwill tried to assist on a few occasions.
"We are continuing to liaise with the customer in advising them on the steps they need to take to resolve the matter.
"We are sorry if the bill has caused alarm but we have explained to the customer that, in the event of internal leaks, we will apply an allowance to the customer's account once the repair has been completed. We will continue to liaise with the customer on this."