Local News


Rent hike for some Henderson families

Posted at 7:05 PM, Feb 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-20 22:26:17-05
Rent could skyrocket for dozens of families over something they can't control.
Apartment management says they can blame it all on the city of Henderson.
Contact 13 looks at the fight that's putting tenants in the middle.
"It's stressful. It's overwhelming," says Sherri Parker.
She isn't holding back.
"It doesn't feel that we're living in a free country, if a city can put a small business' back up against the wall," says Sherri.
She's the resident manager of The Pines Apartments near Windmill and Pecos. Her troubles with the city started last March, after they changed the property's water meters. 
"Our water bills have gone astronomical. They've gone from $4,500 up to $11,000, $12,000," says Sherri.
She paid the skyrocketing bills, but called the city to find out what was going on.
"There must have been a misread on our meters, our bills are insane," says Sherri.
Things only got worse. In September, the city sent this letter to The Pines.
"Stating they had changed our meters out, and we were required to put in back flow devices," says Sherri.
So what's that mean? When water flows through the meter and onto a property, a back flow prevention device stops possible contaminated water, from going back into the public system.
"We are now required to install these back flow devices. We need to pull permits. We need to hire an engineer. We need to get a certified plumbing company out here," says Sherri.
The cost for all this work: more than $50,000.
"In my opinion the reason we have to install these back flow devices, is because the City of Henderson has chosen cheaper substandard meters," says Sherri.
Frustrated, Sherri reached out to Contact 13 for help. We turned to Henderson's director of utility services for answers.
"We understand this wasn't something they expected from a cost perspective. But we're not in a position either that we can put this cost on the rest of our customer base," says Priscilla Howell.
She says The Pines got new state-of-the-art meters, because the old ones weren't operating properly. And this work is required, with or without the new meters. But she admits something went wrong with the city's billing system, causing The Pines' water bills to spike.
"We corrected that immediately. In September, October, we refunded them that money," says Priscilla.
But that won't cover the cost of installing these back flow devices. And The Pines isn't alone. There are a couple hundred other locations, that will also need back flow devices installed. Single-family homes aren't affected.
Back at The Pines, Sherri says they're moving forward with plans to install back flow devices, for each water meter. But she argues this unanticipated cost, is going to have a major impact on her tenants.
"The only way we're going to be able to do it, is by increasing the rents," says Sherri.
Rent at The Pines is expected to climb $30-$50, depending on the number of residents in each unit.
The city says it wants to do everything possible, to avoid the pines having to pass the cost on to its tenants. So they're suggesting a water audit, to help find ways to conserve water and save money.