Inheriting a property is a big deal. Home ownership can provide security and a financial boost. But it also brings important responsibilities and even challenges. If you inherited a home in Philadelphia, this blog post provides an overview of: 

  • Resolving old debt tied to a property 
  • Taxes  
  • Water charges 
  • Ways to save money and stay in good legal standing 

There is a ton of information on each one of these topics that we won’t cover in this blog post. But we will include helpful links. Consider this post a good starting point to learn more, and to contact different agencies and City departments that can help.  

You are responsible for paying all Real Estate Tax and water charges on the property to the City of Philadelphia. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania also collects inheritance tax.  If you are not listed on the deed of the home that you live in, you are still responsible for paying tax and water charges. If you are renting the property from the owner, you should review your rental agreement to find out if you are responsible for water bills 

Inherited debt on the property?  

There are two ways to find out what taxes are owed on a property: 

Stay up to date on property taxes  

Failure to pay Real Estate Taxes by March 31 will result in penalties and increased monthly charges. If these taxes go unpaid past January 1 of the following year, the City can place a lien on your home and sell it in a Sherriff Sale.  

Many of ouReal Estate Tax relief programs require you to put the deed to the home in your name. Other programs allow you to enroll while you work to complete the deed transfer process.  

There are a few steps that must be taken in order to transfer or change a name on a deed 

  • Open an estate. There are programs available if you cannot afford to open a new estate.  
  • Prepare a new deed. The deed must be prepared and recorded by a certified professional (i.e. real estate lawyer or a realtor) 
  • Pay the transfer fee. The transfer fee amount may vary depending on the relationship between the parties involved.  

The Philadelphia Register of Wills can provide more information about opening a new estate and transfer fees.  Contact (215) 686-6255 or 

Once the deed to the home is in your name, you may be eligible for assistance programs including:  

  • The Homestead Exemption  – If you own and live in the property as your primary residence, you are eligible for the Homestead Exemption on your Real Estate Tax – a savings of up to $629 a year! 
  • An Owner Occupied Payment Agreement (OOPA) This program allows homeowners to make affordable monthly payments on property taxes that are past due. (Note: You would need to prove your Equitable Ownership right to the property to be eligible. Paying the taxes on a property does not grant ownership. 
  • Real Estate Tax Installment Plan – This program allows senior citizens and low-income taxpayers who own and live in their home to pay their Real Estate Tax in monthly installments. 
  • Low-income Senior Citizen Real Estate Tax freeze  If you meet certain age and income requirements, the amount of property tax you pay each year will not increase, even if your property assessment or the tax rate changes. 

Keep the water flowing 

By paying water charges, you help the City provide clean, safe water to all Philadelphia residents. To become a water customer, you’ll need to take the following steps:  

  • If your deed is recorded, your account will be updated by the City and you will begin to receive bills in your name. 
  • If your deed is not recorded and you would like water bills in your name, present your settlement sheet to the Water Revenue Bureau at a payment center. You can view a settlement sheet on the Department of Housing and Urban Development website 
  • If there is no meter on the property, a meter must be installed within 30 days after the settlement date. Call (215) 685-6300 to get a water meter installed. 
  • For more information about water charges, send an email to 

 If you need help paying your water bill, you may be eligible for an assistance program The Water Revenue Bureau and the Law Department can assist with resolving any outstanding liens or judgements on a home from unpaid water bills. 

If all this seems overwhelming, just remember one thing: help is available. This includes many housing counseling agencies across the City. 

Photo credit: Samantha Madera