Sunday, November 18, 2012

More On People Losing Their Homes To Foreclosure Over Unpaid Water Bills & Inflated Tack-On Charges

In Baltimore, Maryland, ABC News reports:

  • Actor and musician Richard Burton is facing foreclosure on his Baltimore home, but not because he didn't pay his mortgage on time. In his case, he says it all began with an overdue $1,037.42 water bill.

    Burton lost his job playing "Shamrock" McGinty on HBO's "The Wire" when the show went off the air. He couldn't afford the bill and claims it was incorrectly inflated to begin with.

    However, the cash-strapped city of Baltimore turned to a controversial way to collect. The city sold his unpaid debt to a private company that also inherited a lien on Burton's home. Then, the company tacked on 18 percent interest and more than $2,000 in legal charges.

    "You have no choice but to pay or you lose your home, that can't be right," Burton said.

    A Colorado Springs-based company called LienLogic is trying to foreclose on Burton's home if he doesn't pay. [...] LienLogic, the company that bought Richard Burton's debt, makes $100 million a year from its lien business, which it operates in multiple states.

    The company initially declined an interview with ABC News, forwarding us to the National Tax Lien Association for comment. The executive director of that organization agreed to an interview, and then backed out.
  • Not all cities sell unpaid debts to private companies. In Houston if you don't pay your water bill, the city will shut your water off and try to get you help. Officials there would never give someone the potential right to take your home away if you don't pay.(1)
For more, see Unpaid Water Bills Leading to Foreclosed Homes.

See also, Losing It All: American families losing their homes because they didn't pay their utility bill for the ABC News video on this story.

(1) See The Other Foreclosure Crisis: Property Tax Lien Sales, a report from the National Consumer Law Center on state laws that permit local governments to sell property through a tax lien foreclosure process if the owner falls behind on their property taxes, water and sewer bills, etc.

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