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  • How does the DEP determine if there is a Theft of Service?

There are several criteria laid out in Section 3 of DEP Water Board Regulation 4. We’ve displayed them below, along with a brief explanation where necessary.

  • Unauthorized bypass of the meter. This refers to a meter that was bypassed such that a portion of the water is not being measured or reported to the DEP.
  • Tampering with the meter. Tampering is a catch-all term for any unauthorized modification of a meter.
  • Breaking, picking or damaging the meter seal. Every NYC water meter comes with a tamper-proof seal. Any evidence that this seal has been broken constitutes a violation.
  • Removing, disabling or adjusting meter registers. The
  • Removing the meter or removing the meter installing the meter backwards. A backwards installed meter will not properly record water use.
  • Moving the meter without permission. Moving a meter requires authorization from the DEP. Failure to file the correct paperwork can result in a violation.
  • Extending authorized flat-rate residential services to any unauthorized commercial users. Some properties may be charged based on a flat-rate rather than based on usage (read more about flat-rate billing). Extending the plumbing from a flat-rate building to use water in another building is not permitted.
  • Extending authorized flat-rate residential services to any unauthorized residential services.
  • Unauthorized connections to water lines, hydrants, valves or other appurtenances not owned by the Customer.
  • Tampering with any equipment designed to supply or to prevent the supply of any System services either to the public or to the Customer’s premises
  • Use of sprinkler system water service for any purpose other than fire protection
  • Obstructing, defacing or destroying the meter to prevent a meter reading. This can be as bad as destroying a water meter to as mild as blocking it. If your meter is in a basement and blocked by a large object like a refrigerator, you may be in violation.
  • Any unauthorized direct or indirect connection to the sewer system
  • Any other action or inaction that may reasonably result in costs to the System or the loss of revenue to the Board

It’s important to note that while some of these criteria clearly represent someone with malice attempting to use water without paying, many of these items can occur without the knowledge of the property owner. If, for example, a plumber were to move a meter to accommodate a renovation, but doesn’t file the paperwork, the DEP is within it’s jurisdiction to charge for attributed consumption, despite the fact that the owner did not use any unmetered utilities, nor did they have intent to do so. Because the DEP is a regulating body and not a lawmaking one, it has no burden of proof for cases of theft. A violation of any criteria the DEP created is enough for it to charge a fine, with no need to prove intent as would be necessary in a court of law. This is important when it comes to fighting the charge.