Tapped Out: When Water Bills Force Foreclosure

Tapped Out: When Water Bills Force Foreclosure

Homeowners like Vicki Valentine are getting evicted, not because of unpaid mortgages, but because of small debts owed to local tax collectors. (Huffington Post)

Vicki Valentine moved back to her West Baltimore home ten years ago to care for her ailing father. Her father had paid off the mortgage on the two-story brick row house in 1984, but after his death, Valentine fell behind on the city water bill and set in motion a chain of events that ended up in her eviction from the family home.

This video by the Huffington Post Investigative Fund and supported by the American News Project takes a look at the contentious legal process of local governments selling tax liens to investors rather than collecting the overdue money. In the case of Valentine, a $362 unpaid water bill ballooned to ten times that amount due to interest and fees. Eventually her debt was auctioned off in a tax lien sale. Now an investor owns her home.

The video covers the day Valentine and her teenage son are forced to leave their home and includes interviews with the somewhat remorseful sheriff who carries out evictions, an investor representative who accompanies the sheriff, a city councilor and Valentine herself before, during and after her eviction.

CHANNEL: Huffington Post Investigative Fund

Length: 9:54

By Lagan Sebert, Fred Schulte and Ben Protess