Annapolis, MD — Moments ago, the Maryland House of Delegates unanimously gave final approval to SB 96, legislation to remove water bills from the tax sale process for residential properties and places of worship in Baltimore City. When enacted, the Water Taxpayer Protection Act, sponsored by Senator Mary Washington (D 43) and Delegate Nick Mosby (D 40), will provide permanent protection for thousands of Baltimore families who risk losing their homes or places of worship through tax sale because of water bills each year. The legislation now heads to the Governor’s desk for his signature.
The legislation had full support from the Baltimore City House and Senate Delegations: it was cosponsored by every member of the Delegations and passed unanimously through each of the respective Delegations.
“The Water Taxpayer Protection Act will serve as a permanent safeguard for our most vulnerable residents to ensure that they do not lose their homes or places of worship to tax sale for the most basic necessity of our lives – water, said Senator Mary Washington. After three years of fighting to end the practice of selling homes for unaffordable and incorrect water bills, we have finally passed the legislation our city needs. The passage of this bill serves as a reminder that with the relentless pursuit for justice, change for the better can happen.”
Legislators have been working to reform the tax sale system for years. In 2017, then-Delegate Mary Washington introduced state legislation to stop the practice, which passed the state House but died in the state Senate. Then, in late 2017, Mayor Catherine Pugh declared that homeowner-occupied properties with exclusively outstanding water bills would be removed from the tax sale list for the May 2018 tax sale. In 2018, the Maryland General Assembly passed a one-year moratorium, on adding homeowner or renter-occupied properties to the 2019 tax sale list, again if they had exclusively outstanding water bills.
“I am proud to stand up for Baltimoreans who have faced tax sale of their homes for unaffordable or incorrect water bills by passing the Water Taxpayer Protection Act,” said Delegate Nick Mosby. “It was far overdue for the General Assembly to end this immoral practice, but now we have brought justice to families and places of worship across our city.”
There are currently 25,291 homes, rental properties, and places of worship on the 2019 tax sale list. As a result of the Mayor’s directive in 2017, more than 3,500 homes were taken off the May 2018 tax sale list. If signed by Governor Hogan, thousands more properties would be removed from the tax sale list starting in 2020.
“As water rates continue to rise in Baltimore, Maryland legislators have taken decisive action to ensure that families, renters and places of worship won’t face the worst possible consequence for being unable to pay an unaffordable or incorrect water bill, ” said Rianna Eckel, Senior Maryland Organizer with Food & Water Watch. “Homeowners and places of worship in Baltimore struggling with water bills can now rest easy knowing their properties are safe from tax sale for water bills. We’re ecstatic to thank Sen. Washington and Del. Mosby for their incredible leadership, and the rest of the General Assembly that voted yes on this bill. Cheers to the end of this unconscionable practice!”