SAWS shuts off water to multiple apartment complexes for unpaid bills

Most of the apartment complexes owed $10,000′s in unpaid bills

SAN ANTONIOUPDATE: A spokesperson for the San Antonio Water System said all the complexes, except the W. Magnolia location, have had their water restored after making payment.

ORIGINAL STORY: The San Antonio Water System cut water service to four local apartment complexes, citing unpaid bills totaling more than $280,000.

Tenants at the Westwood Plaza, Roselawn, and Serenity Townhomes all called KSAT, saying their taps were dry. SAWS also identified a fourth unnamed complex, located in the 400 block of W. Magnolia, as being cut off.

“This is ridiculous. I thought they were playing around, but obviously, not,” said Brittany Scott, who woke up to the outage. “I don’t know what we’re going to do. I don’t know. I’m stressed.”

Scott lives at the Roselawn apartments which, like the other complexes, is supposed to include water and other utilities in the rent.

“They haven’t told us anything,” said Douglas Jones, who also lives at that complex. “We can’t flush the toilet. We can’t do nothing.”

A few miles away at the Westwood Plaza apartments, tenants found themselves with the same problem.

Juan Gonzalez was left wondering how he’ll get ready for several appointments he has coming up this week.

“I need a shower. I can’t go out there sweaty and dirty and smelly,” Gonzalez said.

People at both complexes said they first heard about the outage through a sign left on their front doors by SAWS workers.

Anne Hayden, a spokesperson for the utility, said the shutoff was unavoidable.

Hayden said most of the apartment complexes owe $10,000′s in unpaid bills.

She said SAWS has been trying to work out payment plans with them, knowing they may have been struggling from the effects of COVID-related shutdowns.

“Unfortunately, these businesses have reneged a number of times,” Hayden said. “We’ve worked with them. We’ve been in contact with them. But unfortunately, they haven’t kept up.”

Hayden said she feels for the tenants who are caught in the middle.

“They are paying their rent. The money is going toward the maintenance of the apartments, but the money is never reaching SAWS,” she said. “On many of these, we haven’t received a payment since March.”

Pico Union Housing Corp. owns both Roselawn and Westwood Plaza. Tuesday morning, SAWS figures showed the two properties owe $144,092.32 and $98,916.74, respectively.

A third property owned by Pico Union, the Spanish Spur Apartments, narrowly avoided having its water shut off when the company made a last-minute payment, Hayden said.

“I’m not blaming anybody. It’s our responsibility. It’s just that a lot of people have not paid their rent nor their water,” explained Gloria Farias, Pico Union’s executive director.

Farias says she sympathizes with tenants who have paid their rent on time but are still affected by the shutoff and is working to make things right.

On Tuesday morning, she promised residents that she would bring in bottles of water to help tide them over.

Additional figures provided by SAWS show the Serenity Townhomes owes $39,999.99 in unpaid water bills, while the fourth property, located in the 400 block of W. Magnolia is $9,982.33 in arrears.

Patrick Duke, the listed owner of Serenity Townhomes, spoke to KSAT by phone and said the property is now current with SAWS and that a payment was made Tuesday morning.

When asked whether the water had been shut off, as one tenant reported, he said he did not know. He said as of Tuesday afternoon, though, the water was on.

KSAT left a phone message for the listed owner of the W. Magnolia property, but she did not respond.

About the Authors

Katrina Webber joined KSAT 12 in December 2009. She reports for Good Morning San Antonio. Katrina was born and raised in Queens, NY, but after living in Gulf Coast states for the past decade, she feels right at home in Texas. It's not unusual to find her singing karaoke or leading a song with her church choir when she's not on-air.

Azian Bermea is a photojournalist at KSAT.

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