A BRITISH expat has revealed her shock after being hammered with €74,000 of water bills.
Gillian Hodge told the Olive Press she completely ‘panicked’ and is now suffering from extreme stress.
The retired pharmacist, who lives between Spain and Scotland with husband Tom, received two eye-watering bills from La Viñuela town hall.
“I couldn’t believe it at first when I saw I owed €73,640,” Gillian, 66, told the Olive Press.
“I just felt raw panic. I’ve been overwhelmed with stress since I saw the bill last month.”
The total comprises two big demands, one for the third quarter of 2022 for €28,420 and the other for the second quarter of 2023 coming to a whopping €45,220.
Unbelievably, the two interim quarters came to just €15.48 and €14.18 respectively.
The town hall, which administers the water, claims her three-bedroom property has used 2.6 million cubic litres over the combined 180-day period – enough to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool – or 601 litres per hour.
“They told my property manager we had a leak in July, but it was fixed immediately. This leak would have had to be massive and we were not even using the home at the time.
“On top of that we are overlooking rural land which is bone dry. With that much water leaking out, you would have thought our land would be flourishing and green, but it isn’t.”
Not permitted to just pay part of the bill and obviously unable to pay it all, Gillian is baffled.
“I’m not refusing to pay for the water. We’re just refusing to pay €70,000. We don’t have the money and even if we did, it’s still entirely wrong.”
Meanwhile her British neighbour, Lee Talbot, 60, has been forced to call in lawyers after being sent a bill for €43,000.
The property developer from Kent has appealed the ‘crazy’ bill levied on his six-bedroom home, overlooking Viñuela reservoir.
He told the Olive Press that the town hall lawyer suggested someone had been stealing his water.
“I laughed and said, ‘really? Is this a joke?’ But he confirmed that I had apparently used more water than the entire village combined.”
Talbot, who owns Marbella’s LT Construction, which employs 30 people, hired a technical expert to inspect his property.
He came back and told him definitely there was ‘no leak’ nor any water theft.
The Olive Press understands there are at least three more people with life-changing, five-figure bills.
A further 20 people – the majority British expats – have been landed with bills in the thousands.
And, in addition, over 100 residents are also reeling from bills greatly inflated on the previous quarter.
A trio of Spanish residents are also caught up in the fiasco.
One resident, Paul Rouse, claimed his bank manager told him of a woman who had passed away years ago receiving a bill for €1,500.
Many residents have complained they have not even been able to put a pause on their bill while the situation is in dispute.
Suspicion has naturally fallen on the water meters.
Some residents believe air is entering the water pipes, causing the meters to spin wildly and inflate the usage – literally paying for air.
However, residents have pointed out that this would not explain how meters are returning measurements of water used in the hundreds of thousands and even millions of litres.
Despite the various excuses from public authorities and speculation from local residents, many are running out of patience with the situation.
“They just don’t care,” said one English resident who has had a property in the village for 20 years.
“They seem to think we’ve got endless amounts of money, that we’re just open wallets. I think they just think that we don’t matter.”
Councillor Amber Crookshank told the Olive Press an investigation has been launched and the meters have now been sent for testing to make sure they are calibrated properly.
And the British expat admitted the town hall didn’t ‘understand the problem.’
“I’m frustrated because something needs to be done to figure out what’s going on and why people are getting these impossible bills.”
Her colleague, Moises Cerrado, later admitted that water theft was ‘a big problem’ in the area.
“Many of the residents do not live in their properties and they don’t know what’s happening while they are away,” he told the Olive Press.
He expected the results of the investigation to come back within four weeks, but added there were ‘no guarantees’ the residents will be happy.
“We are in the middle of an extreme drought and some have been consuming huge amounts of water,” he explained. “The new rates are designed to penalise this wastage.”
And he confirmed the problem is not only affecting British residents, with some Spanish and ‘also Belgians’ getting big bills. “The water meters do not understand nationality and we are trying to help all our residents.”
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