All title professionals in DC should be familiar with water/sewer charges, which are administered by the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) (https://www.dcwater.com/). Unpaid water and sewer charges constitute a lien on real property, which means that you need to raise an appropriate exception in Schedule B of your title commitment/policy. The liens attach to real property upon the filing of a Certificate of Delinquency with the Recorder of Deeds; once filed they are prior to all other liens except for real estate taxes, and they secure the full amount of unpaid charges, any accrued additional charges, as well as penalties, interest and administrative costs. (See D.C. Code § 34-2407.02)
The first thing to know about WASA accounts is that you will need specific written authorization from the property owner, on your title company letterhead, in order to access any information. You can then order a “Certified Balance Letter” from WASA using one of these methods:
- ONLY if the property is BEING SOLD, you should email your request (along with the singed owner authorization letter) to: email@example.com.
- Otherwise, for all other balance request situations (refinances, loan modifications, second loans, etc.) you should FAX the request (along with the signed owner authorization letter) to (202) 354-3681.
The standard practice in DC closings is to collect for and pay through closing any outstanding water/sewer charges that are due on the property. If you are handling the sale of a property, you should then escrow an amount sufficient to pay any charges that may have accrued up until the day of closing based upon prior usage amounts and periods. Once you have closed your transaction, WASA requires you to email a copy of the settlement statement within fifteen (15) days of closing in order for the final meter reading to be conducted (which they will backdate to the date of settlement); the final bill will then be mailed to you as settlement agent for payment. You should email the request to: firstname.lastname@example.org.