Contractor from Calgary soaked for $27K water bill after buying Winnipeg home

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Contractor from Calgary soaked for $27K water bill after buying Winnipeg home

Azher Mubeen moved to Winnipeg from Calgary to build a new home.

He bought a teardown in St. Vital's Glenwood neighbourhood, demolished the 650-square-foot house, and was building a new 1,100-square-foot home for his family of six when he received a surprise from the City of Winnipeg in the mail.

It wasn't a "welcome to Winnipeg" card, but a water-and-sewer bill for $27,203.

"It was totally a shock for me. I thought something must be wrong," said Mubeen, who took possession of the Blenheim Avenue property in October and is acting as the general contractor on the teardown and rebuild project.

Mubeen said all of the services were cut off before he obtained a demolition permit in December, but the water meter was nowhere to be seen. Even the city employee who arrived to turn off the water couldn't find the meter, he said.

Mubeen was advised to call in a reading if he did find the meter. Otherwise, he would be charged $150.

He thought he was lucky when he found the meter during the excavation process and then called in the reading.

"I tried to save $150. They sent me a bill for $27,000," he deadpanned.

Mubeen said he called the city to inform them there must be some sort of mistake. He said there was no water at the property for the December-to-January period in which the city says he racked up a $27,203 water bill, so a leak is out of the question.

It's also unclear how long it would take the previous owner of the property to wind up with a $27,200 discrepancy between a series of estimated water readings and the actual water usage, if that's even possible to rack up at a 650-square-foot home.

Mubeen said he didn't get any help from water and waste staff.

"They said, 'You're the owner. You're supposed to pay,'" he said.

The city has no explanation for Mubeen's massive water bill.​

"We understand the concerns of the property owner regarding his bill. Water and Waste staff continue to investigate the situation and to work with the property owner towards a resolution," city spokesperson Michelle Finley said in a statement. 

"Until our investigation is complete, it would be premature to speculate on the outcome or the reasons for the billing amount."

He isn't the first Winnipegger to receive an enormous water bill. In 2015, a Winnipeg man received an $87,000 water bill a few months after buying a home in the Mynarski ward. 

Mubeen said he moved to Winnipeg because land values are cheaper than they are in Calgary and there are good opportunities for a general contractor. He said the total cost of his Glenwood project will be about $290,000, once the three-bedroom, two-bathroom home is ready this year for him, his wife and their four kids.

The sticking point remains the water bill. Mubeen said he has yet to hear from anyone at the city since he began making inquiries.

"I'm waiting for them, you know. Otherwise, I'm going to court, you know, if we can't resolve the issue," he said. "It's totally mental harassment for me. Since this happened, I can't work properly."

St. Vital Coun. Brian Mayes told CBC News he will meet with Mubeen if he's asked to help find a solution.

"Well, we've got to get this fellow an explanation and start trying to figure out a solution because that's a huge water bill. It's not like the one we had a few years ago where somebody's house filled up with water while they were away for the winter. This is an unused property in my ward," Mayes said.