If you own a residential property in Philadelphia, you may be responsible for stormwater and water service charges, even if the property is unoccupied. These charges cover the costs of treating rainwater in our sewage system and maintaining water service to your property.
James Gilbert, Director of Accounting for the Water Revenue Bureau offers helpful answers to some commonly asked questions about water charges on vacant properties.
1. I just bought a vacant property, what water charges do I pay?
That depends. The charges will be different depending on whether or not you have a meter and active water service on your property, or you purchased a vacant lot with no water service.
- Vacant lots pay a stormwater only charge of $16.33.
- The residential stormwater only charge is $15.80.
A property with an active service line would pay both the service charge and the stormwater charge. The current residential service charge is $12.22.
2. Why am I responsible for these charges?
Stormwater runoff has been identified as the number one cause of pollution to rivers and streams, the source of our drinking water. All Philadelphia residents pay a stormwater charge so that water can be treated and made safe for everyone. Also, customers with an active water service are billed a service charge. This service charge is for the cost of billing and collections of services and maintaining and cleaning the sewer system. A customer can disconnect their service line and avoid the service charge, but they would still be a stormwater-only customer.
Disconnection of a water service should be only a last resort. The price for a new water line will likely be a lot more costly than any disconnection savings.
3. What happens if I am unable to pay?
Vacant property owners who accumulate over $1,000 in unpaid charges every 3 months will have a lien applied against their property. A lien is a legal claim against a property because of a debt owed. You won’t be able to sell or refinance your property until any outstanding liens have been resolved. It’s best to avoid them all together.
4. Is there help available if I am unable to pay?
If you are having trouble paying your bill, contact our Customer service Center at (215) 685-6300 or go online to find out more about water bill payment agreements.
5. What if I don’t need water service at my property?
If you are sure that you will never need water service at your property, you can contact the PWD permit unit in the Municipal Services Building. It’s very important to know that obtaining a permit is not a temporary solution to avoid a few months of service charges. The cost of adding a new service line and hiring a plumber to complete the work can be very expensive.
The person obtaining the permit will need to provide:
- The current water bill,
- Personal identification, and
- A notarized letter from the property owner authorizing the permit (if not the owner).