3 ON YOUR SIDE (3TV) - Iwana Mathews says her Phoenix home hasn't had running water for three weeks.
"I have two bathrooms. I have to use water," said Mathews.
[WATCH: "It's been rough."]
To get by, the 80-year-old senior citizen says she has plenty of containers of water around just for drinking. That's because the City of Phoenix shut off Mathews's water service.
"It's been rough because I'm used to water. I'm used to having water to do what I need to do with the water," said Mathews.
Mathews says she's never missed a water payment.
So, exactly why did the City shut off her service?
It turns out, Mathews received a notice back in August for another house that she owns, but she rents out.
And the balance for that bill was a whopping $6,200.
"No, it's not from my house. It's from my rent house on Jefferson," said Mathews.
That renter is Lasondra Mathews, Iwana's granddaughter. And utilities like water are in Lasondra's name, so she's the responsible party.
Lasondra acknowledges that she did fall behind on her water bill, and the balance spun out of control.
"It started about two years ago, and the water I couldn't afford it and I wasn't working at the time, so my water got turned off," said Lasondra.
As a result, water at Lasondra's house was also shut off. Like her grandmother, she too was forced to use bottled water just to survive.
But, if the $6,200 water bill belongs to Lasondra, why did the City of Phoenix stick her grandmother with the bill and eventually shut her service off when she couldn't pay?
"It hurts because I know my grandmother is sitting over there with no water. We know how to fend for ourselves but she's 80, she's 81, it's hard for her," said Lasondra.
3 On Your Side got involved, and we contacted the City of Phoenix to tell them the senior citizen should not be responsible for paying her granddaughter's water bill.
The City agreed and in an email to us said the $6,200 bill, "... should have been referred to a collection agency ... " for the granddaughter to pay.
That's what's the City is doing now.
More importantly, the City also agreed to remove the lock from Iwana's water meter, so this senior citizen can have water again, something that makes Iwana very happy.
"It really feels good to know that we have people like you all on 3 On Your Side, 3 On Your Side when we need help," said Iwana.
3 On Your Side received a response from the City of Phoenix Water Services Department on 10/30/19 which reads:
"....although a water meter is locked when a turn off action for non-payment is completed, an account continues to bill each month. Charges consist of the water base fee (approx. $8); sewer fee (less than $5); and refuse fee ($26.85). Water usage is not charged, since there shouldn’t be any water consumption when the meter is locked. An account also bills monthly for late fees on the unpaid balance (3% of the outstanding balance). Although water service may be interrupted at a property, the resident will typically purchase water and still use the sewer service and may still utilize the trash pick-up service."
October 29, 2019 response from the Water Services Department:
"In reviewing the circumstances of this case, we feel the unpaid balance on the account connected to the --- property should have been referred to a collection agency, rather than being tied to the account connected to the ---- Street residence. As a result, we are requesting that water services be restored to the --- St. residence as soon as possible. The outstanding balance for the --- St. property will be referred to a collection agency."
"It’s important to note that Phoenix Water understands that life circumstances can sometimes affect a customer’s ability to pay on an account. There are many options available to customers to help them through these circumstances, before unpaid balances become a financial burden and result in service interruption."
"We appreciate you bringing this case to our attention."