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Proposed CT bill would prohibit home foreclosure due to unpaid sewer fees

BRIDGEPORT, CT - MARCH 12: A sign is displayed in front of a foreclosed home on March 12, 2010 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. A new report by RealtyTrac Inc. announced that the number of foreclosed homes in Connecticut, one of the nation's wealthiest states, is up 3.4 percent from January to February of this year. Nationwide foreclosures have decreased by two percent from January to February. The report, which was released yesterday, says there were nearly 2,300 foreclosure filings in Connecticut last month, compared with nearly 2,200 in January. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
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In 2022, more than 180 homes were foreclosed statewide for sewer liens with the smallest unpaid amount leading to foreclosure was for an outstanding fee of $105.

A new bill recently approved by the Connecticut State Senate aims to prevent home foreclosures due to unpaid sewer fees.

The proposed billwould make it illegal for local authorities and municipalities to take legal action against property owners for unpaid sewer fees of $4,000 or less.

In 2022, around 185 foreclosures were filed for sewer liens, according to Jeff Gentes, managing attorney for the Fair Lending and Foreclosure Prevention Project at the Connecticut Fair Housing Center.

“I looked at all of the ones that were filed in 2022 and about 90% had amounts less than $4,000 and a lot of them were less than $2,000 and even less than $1,000,” Gentes said. “It's frankly an abuse of government.”

Most foreclosures brought about by unpaid sewer fees are filed by the local Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA). Towns without a separate water management entity will file against a resident.

“There’s other things you can do short of threatening to foreclose on someone,” Gentes said. “It's nobody who's sitting there saying, ‘There's no other way for me to get the money other than to take this step.’ You can file collections actions, you can try to garnish wages or pull the money out of a bank account.”

In 2022, more than 180 homes were foreclosed statewide for sewer liens, according to Gentes. The smallest unpaid amount leading to foreclosure was for an outstanding fee of $105.

Filing a foreclosure automatically adds at least $2,500 to the cost of the unpaid fees to account for lawyer and litigation payments.

State Sen. MD Rahman, D-Manchester and chair of the Senate’s Planning and Development Committee, said the bill will help Connecticut residents remain in their homes despite financial strain.

“In New Haven, foreclosure activity has started on properties with unpaid sewer liens less than two years after those liens were first imposed," Rahman said. "This bill is intended to support and aid homeowners who may be facing financial difficulties in avoiding threats against their properties. It simply ensures that fees and assessments must rise above a certain financial threshold before action can be taken. This will be strongly beneficial for a number of Connecticut residents who may be struggling economically.”

Abigail is Connecticut Public's housing reporter, covering statewide housing developments and issues, with an emphasis on Fairfield County communities. She received her master's from Columbia University in 2020 and graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2019. Abigail previously covered statewide transportation and the city of Norwalk for Hearst Connecticut Media. She loves all things Disney and cats.