The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) submitted written testimony in support of SB 96, which is pending before the Maryland legislature and would permanently repeal the authority of the Mayor and the City Council of Baltimore to sell tax liens based on water debt at the city’s annual tax sale. Baltimore’s price of water has gone up by 127 percent from 2010 to 2018.
Many residents are unable to afford their water bills, resulting in service termination or the complete loss of their homes. On top of these continuously rising prices, Maryland’s current state law allowing liens to be placed on homes for failure to pay water or wastewater bills only further contributes to home loss. Lien holders can charge penalty interest and redemption rates among other fees. These additional charges make it impossible for most homeowners to redeem their homes after a lien certificate is sold at tax sale. LDF’s testimony asserts that the sale of tax liens based on water debt disproportionately impacts low-income Black communities in Baltimore. In 2016, eighty percent of clients at the Tax Sale Prevention Project, a joint effort of the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland and the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service, were Black. Sixty-seven percent had a household income of less than $30,000.
Baltimore’s most vulnerable residents should not be subjected to the injustice of losing basic needs because of water debt. SB 96 is a necessary and vital bill.
Read our full written testimony here.