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.

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.



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.

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.)

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.

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.

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”. :wink:

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.

Next question. I assume you had your mail forwarded to your new address. If so, why weren’t the utility bills showing up?

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.

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.

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?

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.

Heat & hot water in winter in New York can generate just that much in charges for an unused apartment.

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.

Why would an empty apartment be heated?

To keep the pipes from freezing.

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.

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.

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.

[quote=“Little_Nemo, post:17, topic:567256”]

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.

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.