The Toledo Blade in their Thursday edition reports on the decision of Lucas County Auditor, Anita Lopez, to stop processing the City of Toledo’s liens for delinquent water/sewer bills. The Auditor expressed frustration at the timeliness of the collection activity of the City’s Department of Public Utilities. She states that her office has received several complaints from property owners who have discovered that liens have been placed against their real property.
At all real estate closings, a Seller is asked to sign an affidavit regarding outstanding water/sewer bills and an acknowledgement that they will pay for the final water/sewer bill. However, as the number of abandoned or foreclosed properties has increased, it appears that the lack of timely billing information is becoming more of a problem.
Auditor Lopez believes that the City is prohibited from placing a lien on a property if the delinquent bill is from a previous owner. It appears that delays in placing the lien may limit the City of Toledo’s collection effort when the party incurring the delinquent bills under the service contract is no longer the owner of the real property. A good practice when you are purchasing real property is to verify with the water/sewer/utility department for the municipality as to whether there are any outstanding bills prior to closing on the transaction. If there are delinquencies, the issue may be resolved at or prior to closing. If you are interested in purchasing a foreclosed property, perhaps you should investigate any delinquencies prior to making a bid for the property.
What do you think about the City’s collection practices and the Auditor’s stand? Let us know.
Michael P. Dansack