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Arlington Still Charging Late Fees, Sending Letters Threatening to Turn Off Water Service

Arlington County is still sending letters threatening to turn off the water service of delinquent utility customers, though it actually stopped the practice last month amid the coronavirus outbreak.

On March 16 the Virginia State Corporation Commission ordered utility providers to stop disconnections of electricity, gas, water and sewer utility services as a result of the public health emergency. The next day Arlington announced that it was suspending water shut offs.

“Arlington County will not shut off any customer’s water service for non-payment, effective March 17,” the county government said. “This is to ensure access to safe, clean water during the coronavirus outbreak.”

But delinquency notices sent to homeowners whose water bills have not been paid have continued to list a “turn off date” and threaten that “water service is subject to be turned off without further notice.” The county has also continued assessing late fees.

In response to questions from ARLnow, Arlington officials say that is going to change.

“We are in the process of suspending the application of late fees and charges, including the mailing of delinquency notices,” Utility Billing and Customer Service Manager Kevin Connolly told ARLnow in a statement Friday afternoon.

“This change will be effective for the upcoming billing cycle. Residents who received a delinquency notice in April and are unable to pay their County utility bill should speak with the DES Contact Center at 703-228-5000, Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.,” Connolly said. “You may be eligible for special payment arrangements without accrual of additional late fees. Arlington County understands that this is a difficult time for many residents and will not shut off any customer’s water service for non-payment during the outbreak.”

An automated message on the customer service phone line informs callers that water disconnections have been suspended.

Connolly said the county will work with those who can’t pay water, sewer and trash bills, encouraging them to call the customer service line at 703-228-5000.

“As a relief from the economic hardship that any of our customers are enduring as a result of COVID-19 events, the County has also expanded eligibility to our payment arrangement program, where customers can negotiate the payment of their bills in installments,” he said. “This program is available to any of our customers experiencing economic hardship.”

Water disconnections are suspended “until further notice,” Connolly said.

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