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  #1  
Old 01-11-2011, 02:43 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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I pit Central Hudson (and ask a question)

I was just checking my free credit report and found something unusual. I supposedly owe a collection agency $435. They say it's from an unpaid bill from Central Hudson Gas & Electric.

I was a little surprised I owed Central Hudson any money. I used to have them as my utility company but that was back in 2009 in my previous apartment. I closed down all the accounts there when I moved out.

I called the collection agency. They confirmed they received the account in May of 2010. I called Central Hudson and had a wonderful conversation with their representative. I'll edit it down some.

"Why do you think I owe you money?"
"It's from your apartment in Beacon."
"I moved out of that apartment in November of 2009."
"This bill is from November of 2009 to March of 2010."
"I wasn't living there then. Why would I pay for utilities at an apartment I didn't live in?"
"Did you call and close the account?"
"Of course, I called you and closed the account in October of 2009."
"We have no record of that. You must have forgotten to do it."
"No, I remember doing it."
"We have no record of it. You must be mistaken."
"Have you considered the possibility that Central Hudson made the mistake?"
"We have no record of us making a mistake."
"None the less, it appears you did."
"Do you have any proof that you closed the account?"
"Like what?"
"I don't know. But can you prove you told us to close the account."
"I guess not."
"Then you're the person who made the mistake. Pay us."

So, surprisingly enough, I don't keep a phone log of the calls I made two years ago from a telephone at an apartment I no longer live at. Can anyone else think of anyway I can demonstrate that I told them to close this account two years ago?

I could theoretically get proof from my old landlord that I moved out. But Central Hudson told me that wouldn't make any difference. Proof that I didn't live there would not be considered proof I closed the account. They would just assume I decided to keep paying the utilities for some reason after I moved out.

I'm guessing a call to the phone company asking for a record of every call I made via my old phone number during the month of October 2009 isn't going to produce immediate results.
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  #2  
Old 01-11-2011, 03:39 PM
Folacin Folacin is offline
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Any chance your new place was also served by Central and Hudson? If you transferred service, they'd have a record of that, presumably.

In any case, I think if they took you to (small claims?) court and you demostrated that you had moved, most judges would come down on your side of a "you said/they said" story.

Joe
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  #3  
Old 01-11-2011, 03:54 PM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Little Nemo View Post
"We have no record of us making a mistake."
LOL.

This is one of the many reasons I hate conducting business over the phone. There's no record, no evidence of what was said or done.
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  #4  
Old 01-11-2011, 03:54 PM
Finagle Finagle is online now
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Talk to the landlord. Find out who occupied the apartment after you left.

$435 wasn't racked up by an empty apartment (unless, I guess, if it had electric heat.)
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  #5  
Old 01-11-2011, 04:19 PM
Morgenstern Morgenstern is offline
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I'd show them my move out documentation, and my new account at your new place. Tell them that you called to terminate service the same day you called to begin the new service. Explain to them that they made the mistake, and surely, the 4 months they allowed the account to go into arrears represents poor business practices on their part. Contact your old apartment and get the name of the tenant and that tenant's move in date and forward that to CH.
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  #6  
Old 01-11-2011, 04:19 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Finagle View Post
Talk to the landlord. Find out who occupied the apartment after you left.

$435 wasn't racked up by an empty apartment (unless, I guess, if it had electric heat.)
Apparently it was. That's how they established the March 2010 date - that's when a new tenant moved in and started a new account at that address.

This one reason why I wrote that getting proof from my old landlord is theoretical at best. What should have happened was my account should have been closed in November and he should have been paying the utility bills until the new tenenat moved in in March. Presumedly he noticed he wasn't being billed and decided not to say anything. If he were to acknowledge I had moved out, he might be held liable for those months. So I consider his cooperation problematical.
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  #7  
Old 01-11-2011, 04:23 PM
AuntiePam AuntiePam is offline
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Do you have your cancelled check, from the last bill you paid to them? I'm sure there's a notation on the check, saying something like "Final payment, notified Central Hudson of move".
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  #8  
Old 01-11-2011, 04:52 PM
Oredigger77 Oredigger77 is offline
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That sucks. I just got a notice at my parents house that I'm getting the electricity cut off for non payment on an apartment i haven't lived in in 5 years and have had three different renters in there in the mean time. I'm sure I'll be having you fun here as soon as my parents send me the notice.
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  #9  
Old 01-11-2011, 05:24 PM
Finagle Finagle is online now
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Next question. I assume you had your mail forwarded to your new address. If so, why weren't the utility bills showing up?
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  #10  
Old 01-12-2011, 07:44 AM
descamisado descamisado is offline
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D'uh. Because the account was closed and therefore the utility company has no record of not forwarding the bills for a closed account to his new address.

Last edited by descamisado; 01-12-2011 at 07:45 AM..
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  #11  
Old 01-12-2011, 08:23 AM
iibeach iibeach is offline
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Closed Account

Here's how it works (from a former utility person)...when a customer calls to close an account, the company asks for the "final bill address"...the address to which they will send your bill (because, presumably, you will no longer be at the old address). It's routine and required, and no call center rep would fail to ask for it. On occasion, a customer will not have their new address available. In this case, the company will send the final bill to the old address, for which hopefully, the customer has made forwarding arrangements. If you're moving to a new address in the same utility territory, they can transfer the final balance on the old account to the new one. If the account never gets closed, then they keep reading the meter and sending bills (to the old address still). And since they were not getting payments, they also would have been sending reminders and shut-off notices. If you received none of the bills or notices, perhaps they were getting delivered to the old apartment and tossed out by someone (makes you wonder if some of your other mail met the same fate).

If you're absolutely sure you called them, then ask them to check back in their system, on or about the day you called, to see who accessed the account. Their system logs every access, including who was on the account, and what transactions they did. Even if they just looked up the account to confirm your identity, it will be recorded there. Good luck.
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  #12  
Old 01-12-2011, 08:50 AM
Really Not All That Bright Really Not All That Bright is online now
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Even if you hadn't called and closed the account, surely an empty apartment with the air conditioning turned off can't accumulate $435 in bills by itself. Can't you just get your landlord to confirm the date you moved out?
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  #13  
Old 01-12-2011, 08:55 AM
Chessic Sense Chessic Sense is offline
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You're going about this all wrong. Who cares what Central Hudson thinks you owe them? The only thing you should care about is what the credit bureau thinks. Get them to forget about it, and C.H. can stomp their feet and demand money all they want.

File a dispute with the credit bureau. Tell them that the account was closed and you were still being billed. If they treat you like they treated me and my mother (re: AT&T), it'll be removed from your record without any further action on your part.

Last edited by Chessic Sense; 01-12-2011 at 08:55 AM..
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  #14  
Old 01-12-2011, 09:37 AM
OtakuLoki OtakuLoki is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Really Not All That Bright View Post
Even if you hadn't called and closed the account, surely an empty apartment with the air conditioning turned off can't accumulate $435 in bills by itself. Can't you just get your landlord to confirm the date you moved out?
Heat & hot water in winter in New York can generate just that much in charges for an unused apartment.
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  #15  
Old 01-12-2011, 09:51 AM
Really Not All That Bright Really Not All That Bright is online now
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Originally Posted by Chessic Sense View Post
File a dispute with the credit bureau. Tell them that the account was closed and you were still being billed. If they treat you like they treated me and my mother (re: AT&T), it'll be removed from your record without any further action on your part.
The last time I filed a dispute, I got a phone call from an unlisted number with a message saying, "call us back at 800-whatever", and that number was disconnected. And the credit bureau upheld the disputed charge.
Quote:
Originally Posted by OtakuLoki View Post
Heat & hot water in winter in New York can generate just that much in charges for an unused apartment.
Why would an empty apartment be heated?
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  #16  
Old 01-12-2011, 10:39 AM
saoirse saoirse is offline
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Originally Posted by Really Not All That Bright View Post
Why would an empty apartment be heated?
To keep the pipes from freezing.
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  #17  
Old 01-12-2011, 11:14 AM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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I don't recall getting any bills forwarded to my new address and I think I would have noticed them.

I have spoken to the collection agency and they don't really seem to care whether or not it's a valid debt.
Quote:
Originally Posted by iibeach View Post
If you're absolutely sure you called them, then ask them to check back in their system, on or about the day you called, to see who accessed the account. Their system logs every access, including who was on the account, and what transactions they did. Even if they just looked up the account to confirm your identity, it will be recorded there. Good luck.
The rep I talked to told me she did this and there was no record of anyone accessing the account in October. That presumedly is the proof she was talking about.

My problem is that they're apparently assuming that none of their employees ever slacks off on the job or makes mistakes. I have no idea what the person I spoke to back in October was doing when I was talking to him. Maybe he was using my phone call as an opportunity to eat his lunch and play online games. Maybe he pulled up somebody else's account and scheduled them for a shut-off. Maybe he was planning on quitting at the end of the day and didn't give a damn.
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  #18  
Old 01-13-2011, 10:46 AM
iibeach iibeach is offline
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The system uses CTI (Computer Telephone Interface). If you called from your home phone, it would link your number to your account, and a screen would be presented to the agent just as your call got to him. And this access would be recorded just as if the agent himself had initiated it. I suppose it's possible that you called from another number, and that number was associated with some other customer's account (this can happen because the telcos now only hold a number for 30 days before reissuing it). So maybe you're right, and the wrong account got turned off. In any event, you should ask to speak to a collection supervisor, or to the call center manager, It''s time to escalate your problem.
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  #19  
Old 01-13-2011, 01:33 PM
UncleMoose UncleMoose is offline
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[QUOTE=Little Nemo;13346203]I have spoken to the collection agency and they don't really seem to care whether or not it's a valid debt.QUOTE]

You're right - the collection agency doesn't care if it's a valid debt or not. They get paid if you pay them, they don't get paid if you don't. That's all they care about. They'll use your credit rating as their lever, that's why your best bet is to dispute it through the credit bureau.

Also, whatever else you do, do NOT agree to send any money to the collection agency or do anything that might imply it's a valid debt. They'll use that as a weapon against you.
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  #20  
Old 01-13-2011, 02:07 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iibeach View Post
The system uses CTI (Computer Telephone Interface). If you called from your home phone, it would link your number to your account, and a screen would be presented to the agent just as your call got to him. And this access would be recorded just as if the agent himself had initiated it.
Then why is it the first thing they ask every time I call is for my phone number so they can look up my account? According to what you're saying, they already have my number and my account information in front of them just from the act of me calling them.
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  #21  
Old 01-18-2011, 08:08 AM
iibeach iibeach is offline
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There are a couple reasons they would ask; 1) their system doesn't have your phone number associated with your account (or it's associated with more than one account); 2) your old number has been re-assigned to someone else, and they see "Jones" on the screen, when you said your name was "Smith"; 3) because the balance has been transferred to collection, they are trying to gather as much information on you as possible to give it to the collection agent; 4) the CTI was down when you called.
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  #22  
Old 01-19-2011, 05:03 PM
Rachellelogram Rachellelogram is offline
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You cannot take for granted what kind of system their service reps use. I don't work at a utility company, but I do work at a call center (insurance company). And we have to manually input a phone number to pull up an account, and accessing an account is not documented unless the rep physically chooses to document it.

However, all of our calls are recorded. You should be able to get a recording of the original call from them, but you're not going to get it from a front line csr. Escalate.
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  #23  
Old 01-19-2011, 05:13 PM
Rumor_Watkins Rumor_Watkins is offline
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Wait wait wait.

Do you not have proof of an electricity bill for that address that you paid *after* you moved out (the inference being that you could not have paid your final bill until you actually moved out)?

If you offer up proof that you made a payment after you moved out (I mean shit, anything will do - a bank statement, credit card statement, anything showing $X was taken out at some point soonish after you moved out. If you have the same elec. company for a different address, then you're going to have to reconcile that second payment with a utility bill), and then further tender proof that your lease ended in nov, that's a pretty hefty mountain of inference that *they* are going to have to surmount to prove that you do in fact owe them money.

If you don't have that proof, sorry, I'm going to believe them.

Last edited by Rumor_Watkins; 01-19-2011 at 05:14 PM..
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  #24  
Old 01-19-2011, 05:17 PM
Rumor_Watkins Rumor_Watkins is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thudlow Boink View Post
LOL.

This is one of the many reasons I hate conducting business over the phone. There's no record, no evidence of what was said or done.
that's total bullshit.

every time I have ever dealt with an entity on the phone regarding any transaction of consequence, they have been more than pleased to pony up a confirmation number.

there's no reason to believe that Company X really has any vested interest in doctoring their records so screw Joe Blow Consumer out of 50 bucks, so I generally deem those confirmation numbers as pretty dang reliable.
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  #25  
Old 01-19-2011, 09:29 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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Originally Posted by Rumor_Watkins View Post
Wait wait wait.

Do you not have proof of an electricity bill for that address that you paid *after* you moved out (the inference being that you could not have paid your final bill until you actually moved out)?

If you offer up proof that you made a payment after you moved out (I mean shit, anything will do - a bank statement, credit card statement, anything showing $X was taken out at some point soonish after you moved out. If you have the same elec. company for a different address, then you're going to have to reconcile that second payment with a utility bill), and then further tender proof that your lease ended in nov, that's a pretty hefty mountain of inference that *they* are going to have to surmount to prove that you do in fact owe them money.

If you don't have that proof, sorry, I'm going to believe them.
I'm not really sure what you're saying here. I cancelled my account at that address. As far as I was concerned, I no longer had any account with them and didn't owe them any more money. If I had somehow been receiving bills from them after that, it wouldn't have just been an issue of me paying them - I would have also become aware that they didn't consider the account closed.

As it is, I didn't receive any bills and I didn't make any payents. Everything appeared to be in accordance with the account being closed.
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  #26  
Old 01-19-2011, 10:47 PM
kaylasdad99 kaylasdad99 is online now
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But did you have a zero balance on that October day when you called to cancel the service?
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  #27  
Old 01-19-2011, 10:58 PM
Harmonious Discord Harmonious Discord is offline
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The last bill you received from them would indicate it was the final bill. Let me guess you don't have it.
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  #28  
Old 01-19-2011, 11:00 PM
Rumor_Watkins Rumor_Watkins is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Little Nemo View Post
I'm not really sure what you're saying here. I cancelled my account at that address. As far as I was concerned, I no longer had any account with them and didn't owe them any more money. If I had somehow been receiving bills from them after that, it wouldn't have just been an issue of me paying them - I would have also become aware that they didn't consider the account closed.

As it is, I didn't receive any bills and I didn't make any payents. Everything appeared to be in accordance with the account being closed.

Ok, I'll try to explain better. I'll make some dates up.

Say my billing cycle for my electric bill runs from the 6th of the month to the next 6th of the month. Say my lease runs from the 15th of the month to the 15th of the month. I am also moving out that day (the 15th).

In all of the places I've ever lived at, when I call and cancel the electricity service, they ask me "ok, what date do you want to stop service". Naturally, I tell them that I want to cancel service the day that I move out (or more likely the next day just to make sure the lights don't go out when I'm moving out), so I'll say "the 15th (of November) let's say.

Ok, all fine and good. On or about the 8th of November, I receive an electric bill charging me for my usage from October 6 to November 6. No problems, I pay it that day.

I pack my shit up and leave. (this is where the forwarding address discussion fits in)

On or about either the 17th of november, or the 8th of december (entirely depends on the billing practice of the utility), I will receive (at my forwarding address, or as has been explained, my prior address that was thence forwarded by the post office) one last bill for the service I consumed from Nov 7-Nov 15.

You should have a record of payment for that bill (if you paid it) somewhere. I would present proof of that payment (which would be for a significantly lower amount than the prior bill you paid, since it's only for about 1/3 of a month), present a copy of my lease or move-out statement or something that shows you stopped living there on November 15, and give it to them. At that point, it's pretty hard for them to claim that they didn't receive service termination instructions from you.

Not receiving that final bill, in my humble opinion, is indication, again only to me, that everything was most assuredly not in accordance with the account being closed.

Last edited by Rumor_Watkins; 01-19-2011 at 11:05 PM..
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  #29  
Old 01-20-2011, 05:19 AM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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Okay, I see your point. But the reality is that I rarely dealt with paper bills. I handled my account online or via telephone. I'd access my account, find out what was owed, and pay it electronically.
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  #30  
Old 01-20-2011, 08:04 AM
Rumor_Watkins Rumor_Watkins is offline
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Okay, I see your point. But the reality is that I rarely dealt with paper bills. I handled my account online or via telephone. I'd access my account, find out what was owed, and pay it electronically.
That doesn't actually change anything.

Did you or did you not pay a smaller bill after you moved out?
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  #31  
Old 01-20-2011, 08:27 AM
Rumor_Watkins Rumor_Watkins is offline
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I mean, on the off chance that your electric billing cycle and rental termination date are so close together that the size of the bill wouldn't indicate much.... did you pay a bill after you moved out?
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  #32  
Old 01-20-2011, 09:34 AM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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Originally Posted by Rumor_Watkins View Post
I mean, on the off chance that your electric billing cycle and rental termination date are so close together that the size of the bill wouldn't indicate much.... did you pay a bill after you moved out?
Honestly, I don't specifically remember. I assume I must have because not paying my bill would have been unusual and I'm pretty sure I would have remembered that. And Central Hudson seems to be confirming this - that aren't claiming I owe them any money for utilities in October, which was the last month I lived there. So I presumedly made a payment sometime in November for the October services. I didn't call them in December because as far as I was concerned there wasn't any bill for November.
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Old 01-20-2011, 09:38 AM
Rumor_Watkins Rumor_Watkins is offline
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Originally Posted by Little Nemo View Post
Honestly, I don't specifically remember. I assume I must have because not paying my bill would have been unusual and I'm pretty sure I would have remembered that. And Central Hudson seems to be confirming this - that aren't claiming I owe them any money for utilities in October, which was the last month I lived there. So I presumedly made a payment sometime in November for the October services. I didn't call them in December because as far as I was concerned there wasn't any bill for November.
I'm not sure you're ever going to be able to make an inference, let alone prove, what you want to demonstrate. Sounds like you could use a little help in the recordkeeping department.

I would ask them to go back and specifically list out the dates they sent bills (going back into September), their amounts, the dates those bills covered, and the dates they received your payments, and those amounts. Try to build a record and work from there, what turns out to be "not owing them money for utilities in October" could very well have meant "the October bill that was sent out for September's usage was paid" if you're being unclear when you ask the question.

Last edited by Rumor_Watkins; 01-20-2011 at 09:39 AM..
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  #34  
Old 01-21-2011, 12:33 AM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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Originally Posted by Rumor_Watkins View Post
I'm not sure you're ever going to be able to make an inference, let alone prove, what you want to demonstrate. Sounds like you could use a little help in the recordkeeping department.

I would ask them to go back and specifically list out the dates they sent bills (going back into September), their amounts, the dates those bills covered, and the dates they received your payments, and those amounts. Try to build a record and work from there, what turns out to be "not owing them money for utilities in October" could very well have meant "the October bill that was sent out for September's usage was paid" if you're being unclear when you ask the question.
But none of that is the issue. I paid all my bills for the time I was living in the apartment. I moved out in October and told them to close the account starting in November (and paid the bill for October). Central Hudson did not close the account and says I owe them from November to March. I'll readily concede I didn't pay them anything for those months.

So their records are going to show that I didn't pay for five months of service - and I didn't pay. The dispute is over whether or not I should owe any money for those months not whether it was paid.
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