Unpaid Water Bills Can Lead To A Lien On Your Home

Unpaid Water Bills Can Lead To A Lien On Your Home

If you do not pay the water bill for your home that receives water/sewer service, then that unpaid bill can become a lien on the home.  That lien, if not paid, can be foreclosed upon.  The statute that provides for this basic point is RCW 57.08.081.  In relevant part, it states that a water/sewer district may claim a lien for the unpaid balance and that the unpaid balance “shall be a lien against the property upon which the service was received, subject only to the lien for general taxes.”  The lien is given greater priority than even a mortgage.  This lien is second only to general property taxes.

This rule applies even to home with renters leaving an unpaid water bill.  In short, if the renter does not pay the unpaid bill then the homeowner is stuck with it.  This is not typically the same with, for example, cable or electric services.




  1. Can they ultimately foreclose the elderly?

  2. Ann Streeter says

    So if my water gets cut off how long do I have before the water company can place a lien on my home?

    • The timing depends on local law. It can vary throughout the country, even city by city. You might start by first looking at the company’s website to see if they have information on that subject. I imagine they might given yours is a common question. I hope this helps!

  3. Saroya Brown says

    How long is the filing process for a lien from the sewage company on a house ?

    • Normally, your state and/or municipality will have a “statute” or written laws that set out the process for a municipality to get a lien. So, it all depends on the laws of your local jurisdiction. So, you might check with a local attorney for your answer if you cannot find it online (check the sewer companies website to see if they provide the answer). I hope this helps!

  4. erin jericho says

    If you have a lien on your home for an unpaid water bill resulting in water shut off….if you rent out that same home, can a renter have water turned on in their name with lien left on the property?

    • That is a great question and likely dependent on your local water provider’s policy. So, I’d contact them to check how they approach this. My guess is that they might well put it in another person’s name as long as the person that owes the old water bill does not live there.

  5. Jeff Dillon says

    How do you go about paying off the lien?

    • You call the creditor and make arrangements. If they have sent it to collection, they will tell you. Then you’ll have to call the collection agency to make arrangements.

      • Ok, so there is a customer who died 4 years ago, no one ever put the water in their name, someone continued to pay this water account. Last payment was April 2019 and now water is shut off. There is a 1,000 bill. Come to find out, the property was up for auction in December and purchased in January this year. So my question is, is it legal to put a lien on the property for the new owner even though they have never contacted our office about service and never put the water in their name?

        • That is a good question. I don’t know the answer off the top of my head. I wondered; so, I did a little research. I found a 2006 WA case that discusses the issue (Seattle Mortg. Co., Inc. v. Unknown Heirs of Gray, 136 P. 3d 776 – Wash: Court of Appeals, 2nd Div. 2006; I https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=12072780800893854330&q=RCW+35.21.300+foreclose&hl=en&as_sdt=6,38 ) It appears to be good law (not overruled, etc.) This case seems to say that the utility loses it’s lien on the property with the foreclosure by a senior lien creditor (first mortgage, etc.) So, the answer might be that the utility cannot reattach it for the new owner. HOWEVER, further research is required to confirm what the result should be. But you might now have a place to start further research. You should seek legal counsel if you want to have an answer that you can rely upon. I hope this helps!

  6. laura ramirez says

    my water bill is 1790 and it is a condo how long before they can put a lien on my condo

    • It depends on your State/applicable law. In WA, we have statutes on the subject including:

      RCW 35.21.290 (Utility services—Lien for).
      Except as provided in RCW 35.21.217(4), cities and towns owning their own waterworks, or electric light or power plants shall have a lien against the premises to which water, electric light, or power services were furnished for four months charges therefor due or to become due, but not for any charges more than four months past due.

      We have another that provides:

      RCW 36.94.150 (Lien for delinquent charges.)
      (1) All counties operating a system of sewerage and/or water shall have a lien for delinquent connection charges and charges for the availability of sewerage and/or water service, together with interest fixed by resolution at eight percent per annum from the date due until paid. Penalties of not more than ten percent of the amount due may be imposed in case of failure to pay the charges at times fixed by resolution. The lien shall be for all charges, interest, penalties, and lien recording and release fees, and shall attach to the premises to which the services were available. The lien shall be superior to all other liens and encumbrances, except general taxes and local and special assessments of the county.
      (2) The county department established in RCW 36.94.120 shall certify periodically the delinquencies to the auditor of the county at which time the lien shall attach.
      (3) In lieu of the procedure provided in subsection (2) of this section, a county may, by resolution or ordinance, adopt the alternative procedure applicable to cities and towns set forth in RCW 35.67.210, 35.67.215, and 35.67.290.
      (4) Upon the expiration of sixty days after the attachment of the lien, the county may bring suit in foreclosure by civil action in the superior court of the county where the property is located. Costs associated with the foreclosure of the lien, including but not limited to advertising, title report, and personnel costs, shall be added to the lien upon filing of the foreclosure action. In addition to the costs and disbursements provided by statute, the court may allow the county a reasonable attorney’s fee. The lien shall be foreclosed in the same manner as the foreclosure of real property tax liens.

      So, it depends on your state law.

  7. The homeowner is deceased though, and water is under their name, we will have a lien soon, but cannot pay full bill right now, what can be done?

  8. My bill is now with a law group. The payment they want me to make is too high for me to come up with in 5 days what happens if I refuse to make that payment. Do they automatically start foreclosure it do I get a chance in court?

    • Foreclosure laws vary from State to State. Where are you located? As a general rule foreclosure takes months (but, again, jurisdictions vary). Yes, if they sue you in court, you will get a chance to respond. I will note that I have never seen a utility foreclose on a lien. Please let me know if I may be of further assistance.

  9. If a Homeowner without a “WiL” has passed with a water bill in deliquent..Does the Bill carryover to whoever remains living in the property ? Until Probate is complete!! Or can they stop & start new service in there name for the remaining time living there?

    • In Washington, unpaid water bills can be a lien on the property. If your state is the same, you may have to pay it or it’s a lien on the house. Otherwise, the utilities have a claim against the deceased’s estate (and might get paid from the sale of estate asset6s including the home). Please check with local qualified counsel to see what’s required in your state.

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