Over the years of talking to homeowners from all over the area, it was amazing to see the difference in prices people pay for water! Some people’s bills are $20-30 per month and others are close to $100/month. That may not seem like a lot of money, but it really adds up. A series of investigative reports from the Chicago Tribune show that people living in mostly black, minority and lower-income communities end up paying the most.
Why is that true? Because in the lower-income towns, there is a lower tax base. And, with a lower tax base, there’s less money to fix the aging water pipes, facilities, and equipment. With aging pipes and equipment, more water is lost, and wasted, causing prices to go up. Another reason is corruption and mismanagement. So, the people that have the least end up paying the most for something very necessary to live.
Because of these high prices, I see people falling behind on their water bills, especially people in lower-income communities. When people fall behind in their water bill, the City will first shut off their water. That makes sense, right? Yes. By the time the water is shut off, though, the water bill is several thousand dollars! Also, the City of Chicago files lawsuits to recover the money. Then, they can deduct money from paychecks, or freeze bank accounts.
When things get this tough, there are only a few ways out of the hole. One way would be to borrow money from friends or relatives to get caught up. The other would be to file for bankruptcy protection. Water bills are not ever eliminated in bankruptcy in Illinois, because the water department has a lien, automatically, on the house. This means that, like a mortgage, the water department has to be paid in order to sell or refinance a house. But, a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy allows a homeowner to stop a cutoff, or get the water turned back on immediately, and create a payment plan to catch up.
It’s important to pay your water bill, and to stop getting soaked. If you are having trouble with your water bill, call us, we can help you.
Daniel J. Winter
Offices in Chicago, Gurnee, Oak Lawn, and Skokie, Illinois