Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Pay your water bill or lose your home
From the Daily News:
Since May 2008, the city has sold almost 3,200 water liens, primarily in low-income and working-class neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. Before then, water liens were sold only with property tax liens.
Water liens can be sold to private collection entities when property owners - residential or commercial - are delinquent on their bills for $1,000 or more for 12 months.
If property owners are unable to pay the liens - plus fees and double-digit interest charges - their properties could go into foreclosure.
Advocates predict the first wave of these foreclosures could hit as soon as the end of the year.
"The very neighborhoods that were victims of predatory lending and are suffering foreclosures are now being hit by city tax lien sales," said April Tyler, the state and local campaigns coordinator for the Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project.
"It increases the pool of people that are in danger of losing their homes," said City Councilman Al Vann (D-Bedford-Stuyvesant).
He introduced a bill in August that would expand the eligibility for lien sale exemptions. It would also require the city to wait three years before selling water liens.
Currently, owners of one-family homes, low-income seniors and low-income disabled are exempt from water lien sales.
But not everyone eligible for an exemption is getting one, Vann said, because it's up to the individual to report their status to the city. And once a lien is sold, it's often very difficult to get the property out of arrears, he said.
Vann's bill is expected to be approved by the end of the year.