Legislation would spare properties from tax lien sales
Posted by Associated Press on 13th March 2018

This post was originally published on WBALTV NEWS

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Legislation removing water bills from tax sales in Baltimore City is stuck in a Senate committee, and that has supporters worried.

According to bill supporters, some 1,000 homes, churches and rental properties were sent to tax sale last year because of erroneous water bills. The Water Taxpayer Protection Act helps to prevent that from happening.


Water woes continue to plague city residents and churches in Baltimore. Critics contend the Department of Public Works is still sending out wrong and hugely inflated water bills. Unpaid water bills can be added as tax liens.

The Rev. Alvin Gwynn Sr. nearly lost Friendship Baptist Church to a tax sale. He tried three times to straighten out his inflated water bill.

“I go back for a hearing the third time (and) all hearings have been done away with, which, in my sense of understanding, is a violation of our 14th Amendment, which talks about the seizure of property without due process,” Gwynn said.

An erroneous $85,000 water bill intended to go to the Rev. Keith Bailey was initially sent to the wrong address. DPW didn’t follow up to get an accurate reading, claiming it couldn’t find the meter. The Greater Bethesda Missionary Baptist Church was then claimed by a tax sale and its future is in doubt.

“We have a food pantry there. We have the homeless. We have, you know, to pay people’s rent, gas and electric,” Bailey said.

Legislation to help unanimously passed the House earlier this week but is now stuck in a Senate committee.

“This bill works to completely remove water bills from the tax sale process. It works to ensure that renters, that homeowners and churches cannot have their properties go up for tax sale for water at all. It removes water,” said Riabba Eckel, with Food and Water Watch.

Just before Christmas, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh suspended water-only liens for residential accounts, but the state bill goes farther.

“It extends the protections so that water will never trigger a tax sale, even if you have some outstanding property taxes, some outstanding environmental citations,” Eckel said.

Bill analysts warn that if passed, Baltimore City revenues will decrease, and it may harm utility bond ratings.