WATER, SEWER, AND/OR STORMWATER BILLING APPEAL POLICY
Administrative Rule Adopted by Council
The Portland Water Bureau and the Bureau of Environmental Services are authorized to charge for the services they provide, adjust ratepayer accounts, shut off service for nonpayment and provide administrative review upon request. (City Code Sections 3.24.020, 3.24.030, 21.16.040, 21.16.120, 17.36.100 and 17.36.130). City Code Section 3.24.030 authorizes the Customer Services Group of the Portland Water Bureau to perform billing, collection and account management functions for these bureaus and respond to customer inquiries.
The Administrative Review Committee (ARC) will respond to ratepayer requests for reviews of account adjustments, proposed account actions, or other disputes concerning water, sewer, and/or stormwater accounts. Decisions rendered by the ARC will be considered bureau decisions.
The ARC is composed of one voting representative each from the Portland Water Bureau and the Bureau of Environmental Services, both of whom have been confirmed by the commissioners-in-charge of these bureaus, along with one voting member from the Portland Utilities Review Board (PURB) to represent consumer interests. The bureaus will each designate two alternate representatives, also confirmed by the commissioners-in-charge, and the PURB will designate one alternate.
To resolve ratepayer issues and inquiries as quickly as possible by providing an avenue for addressing disputes about water, sewer, and/or stormwater accounts, billing issues and actions related to the termination of service.
Ratepayers, as the parties legally responsible for payment of water and sewer services, or their agents may address issues related to their accounts by calling Portland Water Bureau Customer Service or visiting the Customer Service Walk-In Center during regular business hours. When responding to ratepayer inquiries, staff will consider bureau policies, billing accuracy, account history and special circumstances relating to the ratepayer's issue or concern.
If ratepayer issues or concerns cannot be resolved by a Customer Account Specialist, they will be reviewed by a supervisor or by the Advanced Solutions Team. If the issues or concerns cannot be resolved at this level, the ratepayer shall be informed of his or her right to a formal review.
The formal review process is described as follows:
- A ratepayer or an agent who requests the formal review of a bill-related issue must submit a written request for a review of the account in question to the Administrative Review Committee (ARC). This written appeal must include a statement of what the ratepayer (appellant) believes the issue(s) to be and the specific remedy requested. The request must also include a statement describing what informal efforts were made to resolve the matter.
- When a written appeal is received, all pending collection actions on the disputed portion of the account will be suspended until the merits of the appeal have been reviewed and a decision rendered. The appellant is expected to keep current any undisputed portion of the account. Failure to do so may result in the application of standard collection efforts including the assessment of fees or other adverse account actions.
- The ARC will meet monthly, or as needed, for the purpose of considering written appeals received no less than ten days prior to the scheduled meeting date. City Code, Administrative Rules, policies, rate ordinances, account history and special circumstances will be evaluated when rendering decisions. The Committee may accept the appellant's requested remedy, authorize an alternate remedy, or deny the appeal. If desired, the appellant making the appeal or his or her representative will be allowed up to 15 minutes for an oral explanation of his or her position, unless the time is extended by a majority vote of the Committee. Neither the appellant nor a representative is required to be present.
- The ARC is authorized to make adjustments up to $5,000.00 in water charges and $5,000.00 in sewer/stormwater charges. Adjustments greater than $5,000.00 for either the water or sewer/stormwater charges will be referred to the director of the bureau responsible for delivering the respective services or to the City's Chief Administrative Officer.
- The ARC will provide written notification to the appellant to the account billing address of its decision within 10 business days of making a decision. The written reply will include a brief explanation for the decision, and a clear explanation of the future expectations regarding account actions to be taken by the City, and what next appeal steps may be available.
- An appellant shall, within 15 business days after the date of the ARC's written decision, notify the Portland Water Bureau Administrator in writing of his or her intention to appeal that decision to the Code Hearings Officer, in accordance with Chapter 22.10 of City Code. The Administrator may waive this requirement for good cause shown. The Code Hearings Officer may uphold or repeal the ARC's decision.
- To defray costs of the appeal, the Water Bureau will impose on the affected person the associated fees for requesting a hearing before the Code Hearings Officer. The fee will be paid at the time the hearing is requested or the protest will be considered invalid. An appellant who is an active participant in the Water/Sewer Bill Discount Program may request a reduction of the appeal fee. In the event the person contesting the ruling prevails in the protest, the fee will be refunded.
Customer Services Group Director
Resolution No. 36383, adopted by City Council March 1, 2006.
Amended by Resolution No. 36624, adopted by City Council July 16, 2008 and effective August 15, 2008.