Maryland Association of Counties Associate Director Andrea Mansfield testified in opposition to Senate Bill 158 which would eliminate the ability of a local government to collect unpaid water and sewer bills through the use of a tax sale. The tax sale process, or rather the potential for a property to go to a tax sale, presents a much-needed device to ensure that property owners remit payment for their fair share of taxes and charges connected to public services.
The introduction of the bill was prompted by reports that homeowners in Baltimore City were losing their homes to tax sales based on unpaid water and sewer bills. Proponents of the bill argued that this approach is applied inequitably across jurisdictions and that it unnecessarily forces people out of their homes. They suggested that other actions should be taken such as just turning off the homeowner’s water service.
MACo appreciates the concerns leading to the introduction of this bill and believes that all property owners deserve full and adequate notice of any collection efforts that are or may be underway to collect taxes or charges assessed on the property. However, prohibiting a local government from collecting unpaid taxes and charges through this mechanism will lead to greater delinquency and default on public water and sewer bills.