The City of Philadelphia has nearly 40,000 vacant lots, mostly owned by private residents. If you’re one of the city’s vacant lot owners, you’re responsible for stormwater charges, trash collection fees, and property taxes, regardless of whether the property is undeveloped or occupied. We’re sharing the details below.

Stormwater charge

All properties in Philadelphia, including vacant lots, must pay a monthly service fee for stormwater management, even if there’s no water service. That’s because your vacant lot, like all other properties, generates stormwater runoff that the City must manage. The stormwater charge covers the costs of reducing stormwater pollution entering our streams and maintaining the pipes and drains that carry stormwater to our rivers and water treatment plants.

The Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) uses current land use data provided by the Office of Property Assessment (OPA) to determine how to bill your property. The current stormwater charge for vacant residential properties is $18.05, but effective September 1, 2023, the fee will be $18.50. This non-residential rate is based on the total area of your vacant lot and the size of the surfaces that don’t absorb stormwater. You can use PWD’s Parcel Viewer to get additional details of how your property is billed for stormwater.

If you’re unable to pay your stormwater charge, please call us at (215) 685 6300 or go online to learn more about water bill payment agreements. Remember, your account balance will only grow if you fail to pay this fee on time. Non-residential vacant lot owners can lower their bills by managing stormwater on their vacant property.

Property taxes

Like the stormwater charge, the City’s Real Estate Tax applies to all properties within Philadelphia, including vacant lots. The tax is due once a year, on March 31, and is based on your property’s assessed value, which is determined by the Office of Property Assessment (OPA).

Paying this tax on time and in full is important, as it provides funding for the local school district, police, and fire departments, among other essential City services. Failure to pay this tax can result in extra charges being added to your account balance. If you cannot pay your property tax bill, please call (215) 686-6442 and ask about our property tax payment plans. We have flexible payment plans for owners who don’t live on their properties.

Trash collection fee 

You must also pay the City’s annual trash collection fee unless you have a current Vacant Property License from the Department of Licenses & Inspections. If you do, please apply for a full exemption from paying this fee by completing and returning this Commercial Trash Fee Exemption form, or go to the Philadelphia Tax Center and submit the form online. You must complete and submit this form every year to continue to receive this service at no cost.

If you don’t have a current Vacant Property License and use a private hauler for your vacant property, please submit a copy of your service agreement with the private hauler for exemption from paying this fee.

The annual Commercial Trash Fee is $500 and can be paid in two installments of $250. Interest and penalties will be added to your account balance if you fail to pay this fee within 60 days of its due date. If you have trouble paying this fee, please call (215) 686-6442 or email for help getting into a payment plan.