WATER BILL DISCOUNT PROGRAMS
The Senior Citizen Discount Program is designed to assist seniors who are residents of the City and who have limited incomes. The principal resident must be 65 or older and have a combined gross income of no more than $25,000. The program is available to tenants who meet these qualifications and can provide proof through a copy of their lease that they are responsible for the water/sewer bill. A simple application may be mailed or downloaded from the www.cleanwaterbaltimore.org website (click on the Customer care tab to find the application on the drop down menu). If approved, the resident is eligible for a 35% reduction in their water/sewer bill, WHICH INCLUDES A 35% REDUCTION TO THEIR STORMWATER FEE.
The Maryland Bay Restoration Fee Hardship Exemption: This is a State fee that the City collects from its water bill customers and remits to the State. This fee is put into the Bay Restoration Fund and jurisdictions may apply for grant assistance toward the costs to upgrade wastewater treatment plants for Enhanced Nutrient Removal (ENR) facilities. Both of the City’s 2 wastewater treatment plants must have ENR facilities in place by 2017 to help the State meet its Chesapeake Bay protection goals (estimated costs of approximately $900 million). The City is a recipient of these grant funds. Last year the General Assembly doubled the fee to help replenish the fund. This means residents see a $15/quarter charge on their water bill, rather than the previous $7.50/quarter charge. The www.cleanwaterbaltimore.org website (click on the Customer Care tab to find the application on the drop down menu) also has an application for a Bay Restoration Fee Hardship Exemption. If the applicant meets at least 2 of the eligibility conditions (e.g. SSI, food stamps, energy assistance, veterans or social security disability benefits, income criteria) they will be exempt from paying the Bay Restoration Fee AND WILL BE EXEMPT FROM PAYING THEIR STORMWATER FEE (as stipulated in the Stormwater regulations).
PUBLIC SAFETY OFFICERS TAX CREDIT
The State passed authorizing legislation this spring, and the City enabling legislation is currently in Committee. Once the bill passes, which is expected, procedures for how the City will administer that credit will be established. Finance expects to start accepting applications sometime between January 1 – March 31, 2017. They expect to have all of their tax credits transferred to SDAT by May 1, 2017, and the credit would presumably go into effect starting July 1, 2017. The above dates are of course subject to change and will be solidified if and when the City enabling legislation passes.
CITY SUPPLEMENT TO HOMEOWNERS’ TAX CREDIT PROGRAM (LOW INCOME SENIORS TAX CREDIT)
This credit applies to residential property owners who are at least 62 years old, have resided in their home for at least 10 years, and have a combined annual income of less than $40,000. The credit went into effect on July 28, 2016 and will be administered by the State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT). SDAT is in the process of researching the necessary steps to bring this online, effective for the fiscal year 2018 (July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2018) billing cycle. At this time, it is unclear if the credit will be applied retroactively. If you have questions, you can reach the Baltimore City Department of Finance at: http://finance.baltimorecity.gov/contact-finance or 410-396-3987.
WEATHERIZATION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
The Weatherization Assistance Program helps eligible low-income households lower their energy costs by increasing the energy efficiency of their homes, while ensuring their health and safety. Priority is given to homeowners who are elderly, disabled and families with children and/or who have the highest energy consumption. Examples: improvements to hot water systems, lighting retrofits, insulation in the attic, floors and walls and to clean and tune the furnace. Information: http://www.dhcd.state.md.us/ARRA/WAP.aspx
Maryland recently ranked fifth in a Mortgage Asset Institute study of states with significant mortgage fraud problems. Consumers throughout the country have lost their homes due to their lack of awareness and contact with lenders, mortgage brokers, appraisers, and home improvement contractors.
Avoiding foreclosure : starts with being informed when you are purchasing or refinancing a home. Specifics
Resources: Maryland has created a website to guide you to resources that may be available to assist both homeowners and renters facing foreclosure. The site includes information to help you understand the foreclosure process and the options that may be available to you. You also can find information that will lead you to a local housing counseling agency in your area that can assist you on a more personalized level: http://www.mdhope.org/
The Permits and Code Enforcement Division of Baltimore Housing has instituted aggressive new measures to ensure that all required permits are obtained before any construction work begins in Baltimore City. For the new rules and regulations, permits, and searches, visit: http://www.baltimorehousing.org/code_enforcement.
HOMESTEAD TAX CREDITS
There has been much talk recently about the Homestead Tax Credit program. Since I have been receiving a number of questions about the program, I want to try to clear up any confusion.
1) For the first time ever, homeowners must now actually complete an application in order to qualify for the Homestead Tax Credit. This change is a result of recent legislation passed by the Maryland General Assembly in the 2007 session. While I support the reasons behind this change, I fear that many Baltimore residents may not realize that they must now take a proactive step in order to continue to receive the Homestead Tax Credit.
Failure to apply for the credit means that property taxes can jump thousands of dollars for many long-time Baltimore residents. To check the status of your Homestead Tax Credit application, go to http://sdatcert3.resiusa.org/rp_rewrite/ Select Baltimore City, and enter your address. The status of your application will be at the bottom of the page. You can also call 410-767-2165 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about the application process and the reasons behind the change, please visit the Frequently Asked Questions page at the State Department of Assessments and Taxation (DAT): http://www.dat.state.md.us/sdatweb/Homestead_app.htm
You can go directly here to download the form (or complete it online, if you have your 8 digit security code from DAT): https://sdathtc.resiusa.org/homestead/
2) The current Homestead Tax Credit cap in Baltimore City remains at 4%. While the Blue Ribbon Committee on Property Tax Reform has made a recommendation to raise that cap to as much as 10%, the 4% cap remains unchanged at present.
3) Appealing your assessment does not impact your Homestead Tax Credit in any way. The two are completely unrelated and you have every right to appeal your assessment.
IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR RENTAL PROPERTY OWNERS:
1) EVERY rental property in the City of Baltimore must be registered. Visit http://www.baltimorehousing.org/property_registration for more information. There is a fine for failing to register that ranges from $100 to $500 depending upon the type of property.
2) Rental properties are not eligible for the Homestead Tax Credit. The Homestead Tax Credit is reserved exclusively for owner-occupied properties that serve as a principal residence. With extremely rare exception, a married couple may not claim a credit on two separate properties in the State of Maryland: “… the dwelling must be the owner’s principal residence and the owner must have lived in it for at least six months of the year, including July 1 of the year for which the credit is applicable, unless the owner was temporarily unable to do so by reason of illness or need of special care. An owner can receive a credit only on one property—the principal residence.” – http://www.dat.state.md.us/sdatweb/homestead.html
If the city does find an unregistered rental property that is receiving the Homestead Tax Credit, it may seek to collect back taxes. If you are receiving the Homestead Tax Credit on a property that is not your principal residence, it is your responsibility to notify the City and State of the error.
While the Homestead Tax Credit is a state program managed by the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation, Mayor Rawlings-Blake has initiated a new Billing Integrity Program to crack down on abuses of the Homestead Tax Credit program. The results so far: the City is requesting that the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation remove 2,157 property owners from Homestead Tax Credit eligibility. This action could represent an additional $1,278,972 in taxes recovered for the City for fiscal year 2012.
Please share this information with your neighbors!