Water Bill Lien Fee Error on Property Tax Bills for a Limited Number of Water Customers

A processing error for approximately 2,050 customers occurred in which the unpaid calendar year 2021 water bill was transferred onto the latest real estate tax bill for quarter 3 (Q3), and an additional lien fee was incorrectly applied.

First, please accept our apologies for the error. We are sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused you.

The FAQ below addresses some of the most common questions that we have received about this issue. If you still have a question after reading through the FAQ, please feel free to contact us at water@somervillema.gov. Please know that we review and respond to emails in the order that they are received, and we will respond as soon as we are able.


FAQ

  • The Water Department sent a letter to each of the approximately 2,050 water customers affected by the processing error explaining what happened and next steps. If you were sent a letter, you should have received it by early January. 
  • If you didn’t get a letter but still want to confirm, you can instead review your Quarter 3 property tax bill. 
    • If you have water charges on the bill you may be affected, but please note, some water customers were properly liened due to having delinquent bills from 2020. 
    • To determine if your lien was properly applied or if it was mistaken, you can check your bills online or by calling 311 (see the next question for instructions).

To verify the status of your water and property tax bills and the correct amount owed, please use our new Citizen Self-Serve lookup tool at www.somervillema.gov/CSS. If you need assistance with that, please call 311 at 617-666-3311. Citizen Self-Serve is up to date with your correct bill status. All mistaken lien fees have been removed in this system. Only properly applied liens will show in this system. Your online bills will show the correct amount owed.

Mass General Law allows for unpaid water bills to be moved to the tax bill. In Somerville, the City usually waits a full calendar year before moving delinquent water bills onto the tax bill. As part of that yearly process, the City intended to move all overdue bills from calendar year 2020 onto the Q3 tax bill. Due to an error of one digit (we entered 2021―not―2020 into the system), all delinquent water bills from 2021 were mistakenly moved onto the tax bill along with the 2020 overdue bills that we intended to move.

All of the water bills moved over to the property tax bill were delinquent water bills that were already accumulating interest as of 12/23/21 because payment was overdue. However, because the City usually sends courtesy demand notices first and normally allows more time to pay late water payments directly, the City is waiving the lien fee on this batch of water bills that were mistakenly transferred to the Q3 water bill. Please note: The tax bill and the water charges on the same bill must still be paid by the February 1, 2022, due date to avoid new interest charges.

  • The  lien fee charge was an error for only a percentage of bills and for those it has been removed. For other bills the fee is valid and remained on the bill and must be paid
  • If you already paid your water and tax bill and the $75 (or less) lien fee, the lien fee will be automatically credited to your next property tax bill. You do not need to take action to get your paid lien fee back. 
  • If you have not paid your tax or water bill yet, please note that your tax bill contained both your water bill and your Q3 tax bill. Both must be paid. You should pay your water bill and your tax bill, minus the mistaken $75 (or less) lien fee, in one payment as instructed on the bill by the February 1, 2022, due date. Again, all charges on the tax bill minus the lien fee must be paid. 
  • If you want to double check what you owe, please use our new Citizen Self-Serve lookup tool at www.somervillema.gov/CSS. If you need assistance with that, please call 311 at 617-666-3311. Citizen Self-Serve is up to date with your correct bill status and all mistaken lien fees have been removed in this system. So your bills will show the correct amount owed.
  • To pay your bill, visit somervillema.gov/payments or pay in person at the Treasury Office at City Hall. Mail payment to: City of Somerville treasury, 93 Highland Ave., Somerville, MA  02143. There is a stainless steel payment box outside of the main entrance of City Hall that treasury collects from on business days. You can mail payment to the PO Box with the tax bill’s remit slip in the envelope sent with the tax bill.

To pay your bill, visit somervillema.gov/payments or pay in person at the Treasury Office at City Hall.

  • The waived Q3 lien fees have been removed from the City’s payment system. You can see this using our new Citizen Self-Serve lookup tool at www.somervillema.gov/CSS. If you need assistance with that, please call 311 at 617-666-3311.
  • Or if you go to pay online via somervillema.gov/payments, the amount that will be moved over to the shopping cart will be the correct amount you owe and will not include the lien fee. 
  • If you like, take a screenshot of that bill to show the amount owed for your records. 
  • Your Q3 property tax bill (including water charges moved to it but minus any mistaken lien fee) must be paid by the February 1, 2022, due date to avoid new interest charges.
  • If you do not pay the bill by February 1, 2022, 14% simple interest will start to be applied on February 2, 2022.

If the water bill and a mistaken lien was paid by the mortgage company, the lien fee will be automatically credited to your next tax bill. You do not need to take extra steps to have the lien fee credited to your next property tax bill. 

Most mortgage companies do not pay water charges that have been transferred onto tax bills, but some may do so.

  • If your mortgage company paid the water charges, you may wish to contact them to avoid your escrow from changing due to the water bill transfer.
  • You may also wish to contact the mortgage company to determine how to restore the amount of the water payment back into your escrow account. They may ask you to pay them the amount of the water payment to restore funds to your escrow account. 
  • Unfortunately, the City cannot call your mortgage company for you.

The City does not report to credit agencies.

There is a flat $75 lien fee per water account for overdue water bills put onto the property tax bill. Some water accounts are however shared among multiple condo units. In those cases, the $75 lien fee is split evenly among the units, so your lien fee may be lower than $75.

Please call 311 at 617-666-3311. They will connect you to either the Water Department or the Treasury Department depending on the nature of your question.