Florida resident claims Cleveland Water made her pay her bill while in the path of Hurricane Irma

Posted at 6:47 AM, Sep 12, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-12 13:55:54-04

Our 5 On Your Side Investigators uncover another highly questionable billing tactic by the Cleveland Water Department. This time it affects a woman who was directly in the path of Hurricane Irma.

"I just couldn't believe that this was coming from a place that I lived my whole life,” said Vanessa Robinson who was born and raised in Cleveland.

She moved to Miami, Fla. last year but still owns and rents out a home on Cory Avenue in Cleveland.

"Shame on you Cleveland Water Department!" said Robinson during a phone interview.

She's on a payment plan for the water used in her Cleveland home, and called Cleveland Water on Friday because her bill was due over the weekend just as the hurricane was predicted to hit.

Robinson had checked herself into a hurricane shelter on Friday. Then, she called Cleveland Water and asked reps to give her until Tuesday, after the storm was predicted to pass, to transfer the funds to the proper account and pay her bill. "(He) put me on hold and he came back and he was like 'No. I don't think that you can. They said you can't. The payment plan is the payment plan,’" said Robinson.

She pleaded, but even another supervisor told her no and that she had to pay the bill. "I was really upset,” Robinson told us. “It was kind of funny like are you up under a rock? Do you know what's going on in Miami?"

So, she had to leave her safe shelter. "(Shelter organizers) said, 'We cannot hold your place. If you leave, you will have to find shelter somewhere else.'"

Robinson found a bank, paid her Cleveland Water bill, but then it took her 4 hours to find another shelter with room for her. That entire time her mind was racing. “It was making me nervous. I mean I was really nervous,” explained Robinson. “And, of course, my anxiety was up. The traffic was heavy."

Robinson was shaken and irate with the Cleveland Water Department. "I wasn't asking for a month. I wasn't asking for two months. I was asking for at least 4 days."

Here's an interesting note, during our investigation, we've shown you how JD Power ranked Cleveland Water the second worst water department in the country. So, Robinson is dealing with Cleveland but at the same time using Miami-Dade's water which, by the way, is ranked the number one water department in the country by JD Power

"To the Mayor of Cleveland…it shouldn't be this difficult. It shouldn't be this hard. And you should have some compassion,” said Robinson.

We contacted Cleveland Water and communications reps sent this response:

“As a general rule, we try to work with any customer needing assistance regardless of the circumstances. In this particular instance, our Customer Service Representative indicated that the customer would have additional days to make the payment while not formally extending the payment plan. Based on our review, we understand why the customer may have been confused. We have discussed this with the Customer Service Representative and Supervisor and will use this as a training example moving forward.”