The home I am currently looking to buy has an unpaid water/sewage bill of 5k. The previous owner had not paid on. The seller I am buying the home off of has only had it under a year so no title insurance was had. The seller had never received any paperwork of the past due bill, this bill was never put under to be considered a "lei." Yet. Is there a certain also time frame to where this should be wiped from record ? The water company also said as a potential buyer I would not be able to subdue a payment plan nor get any information further because I am not the owner.

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    There are several things about this post that suggests the poster should engage a real estate lawyer (or equivalent in his/her jurisdiction) for this transaction. Commented Oct 12, 2023 at 14:30
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    What do you mean by title insurance not being "allowed"?
    – interfect
    Commented Oct 12, 2023 at 14:48
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    usually, such a bill would be a lien on the property, making sale impossible till it is resolved.
    – Trish
    Commented Oct 12, 2023 at 15:07
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    the worst case is if you buy it the water company expects you to pay before you can get water service. I would not buy a house with this problem.
    – Tiger Guy
    Commented Oct 12, 2023 at 15:14
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    Unless the seller pays the lien as part of closing the deal...
    – Questor
    Commented Oct 12, 2023 at 15:37

1 Answer 1


We can't give you specific advice on your case, but we can say what the general situation is w.r.t. the law. When you buy real estate, you may also acquire an obligation to pay the debts of another. This is usually implemented via a property lien, where a creditor may file paperwork asserting a claim against the property, which allows the creditor to seize the property as part of the process of satisfying the debt (the creditor files papers, the sheriff sells the property). A person who is not the debtor can potentially lose their property if the lien is not satisfied. Non-payment of utilities is one kind of debt that can involve a lien.

Real estate sales differ substantially from the sale of a bushel of apples, where you can hand over $10 in exchange for the bushel of apples and be done with it. Observing proper formalities is important for real estate sales. Handing over a wad of cash in exchange for the keys to a house does not make you the legal owner. Hiring a lawyer and having title insurance is a standard way for buyers to protect their interest in real estate. You should note that if the government makes a mistake in reporting liens against a property, the government is not liable for your loss, therefore you have to be certain that there is no lien (not just "don't think there is"), which is what title insurance is about.

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