Sewer bills are based upon water usage as metered by the Dedham-Westwood Water District. Sewer rates in recent years have been approximately twice the water rate, so your sewer bill will be higher than your water bill for the same reporting period. If your sewer bill is higher than it usually is, that means your water usage has gone up. There are many possible reasons for this, but the most common are: 1) seasonal use, that is, many households use more water in the warm weather for watering, baths and showers, and laundry; 2) more residents such as children home from school or guests; 3) a leak or a running toilet. If you question the metered usage that the sewer bill is based on, you should contact the Water District.
The official real estate taxpayer (taxpayer of record) for any tax year is the owner on January 1 of the year the tax year begins. The taxpayer of record does not change over the course of that tax year, even if the property changes hands during the year. What the office of the Board of Assessors, who issue the tax bills, can do, however, is mail the bill in care of the new owner at the same or a different address. For example, Owner sells to Buyer in June 2009. Owner is the taxpayer of record for the entire tax year ending June 30, 2010 and all four real estate tax bills are addressed to Owner. If Buyer notifies the office of the Assessors, the subsequent bills will be addressed to Owner in care of Buyer. Because Buyer owns the property on January 1, 2010, all tax bills beginning with August 2010 will be addressed to Buyer.
Sewer bills are not governed by the same laws as real estate tax bills. Whenever the property is sold and the owner requests a final water bill, we expect the owner to request a final sewer bill also, based upon the final water bill. At the same time, we give the owner a form for the name and address of the new owner. The owner can fill the form out immediately or take it to the closing to deliver it to the new owner. Once that form is returned to us, we change the name and billing address for the sewer bill. Without that form it is difficult for us to know that the billing name or address needs to be updated.
We just need a written note requesting the change of name and/or billing address. You can drop it off at the counter, or mail it to Collector’s office, PO Box 306, Dedham MA 02027.
It is likely that the payment arrived after the due date. Overdue amounts on tax and sewer bills are charged interest at the annual rate of fourteen percent, calculated each day, and the law requires us to apply late payments to the interest first, then to the principal tax or fee. The usual result is that a small amount of principal is unpaid and carries over to the next period bill.
It’s the law. We are mandated by state law to charge interest at the rate of fourteen percent per year on overdue real estate and personal property amounts and twelve percent per year on overdue excise bills. Town meeting mandated interest on overdue sewer amounts at the rate of fourteen percent.
Your account has a credit balance. If it is a sewer bill, the credit will automatically be applied to the next bill. If it is a real estate or personal property tax bill, the credit will be carried forward only to the next bill in the same tax year; this is because each tax year is a separate account. If you would like a refund of the credit balance, please contact the Collector’s office.
Real estate and personal property tax rates are set once a year, usually in December. Because the first two bills of the tax year are due August 1 and November 1, the Board of Assessors are required by law to charge a percentage of the prior year’s net tax on those two bills. Those charges are “preliminary” to the “actual” tax charges that appear on the bills for February 1 and May 1. The preliminary tax for the first half of the tax year is typically 50-55 percent of the prior years tax, net of any exemption.
The Town has arrangements with two vendors currently to allow electronic payments of tax bills: eBill and UniPay. Links to those services and their registration pages can be found on the Town’s home web page at www.dedham-ma.gov.
Credit card payments are accepted by both eBill and UniPay, although not every card type is accepted at each service. You can find current information at their web sites. Links to those services and their registration pages can be found on the Town’s home web page at www.dedham-ma.gov.
The maintenance of taxpayer/ratepayer billing information is a patchwork. The Board of Assessors keep track of the official or “record” owner of real estate property by examining copies of deeds received from the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds and the Norfolk Registry District of Land Court. Personal property bills are addressed to businesses according to their submission of Forms of List. Excise tax billing information for each new bill comes to the Town from the Registry of Motor Vehicles. Sewer bills are generated from records kept by the Collector’s office and the Dedham-Westwood Water District.
In order to change your billing information, you must make sure to give notice to the appropriate office. Real estate and personal property mailing address changes are processed by the Assessors’ office and must be in writing. Excise tax changes must be made with the RMV, usually through your insurance company. Name and address changes for the sewer bills are handled in the Collector’s office.
11. The excise valuation on my car/motorcycle went up. How is that possible?
If you buy a motor vehicle in the second half of the calendar year, the first excise valuation will be pro rated on the partial year. The next excise valuation will reflect a full year and, even after the mandatory depreciation, may still be higher than the prior year.
12. What is a sewer/water lien?
Unpaid sewer and water bills by law are a lien on the property. The town and the Water District add those amounts to the “actual” real estate tax bills, i.e. the February and May bills. No lien is recorded at the Registry of Deeds. Generally, the amounts added are those outstanding on the sewer bills due prior to October and on the water bills prior to December.
Sewer and water liens inflate the real estate bills and make your mortgage company think that your taxes are higher than they actually are. As a result, the mortgage company often raises the monthly escrow amount due.
13. I’m selling my house. How do I get a final sewer bill?
First, you need to contact the Water District to schedule a final reading of your water meter. Once the meter is read and you have paid the final water bill, you should take the final bill to the Collector’s office for the calculation of your final sewer bill. There is no service fee for preparing the final sewer bill but it may take some research to determine the correct amount, so allow 24 hours to prepare the final sewer bill.
When you pick up the final sewer bill, you may pay immediately or take the bill to the closing for payment by the closing officials. Also, with the final bill will be a form for a change of billing name and address; please fill out that form or pass it along at the closing.
14. The Registry of Motor Vehicles says I can’t renew my license/registration because of an unpaid excise. How do I clear that up?
Notices of unpaid motor vehicle excise bills are mailed twice (once as a “demand” and again as a “warrant”) and then delivered to the door (as a “final warrant”). If an excise bill remains unpaid after the final warrant, it is liable to be reported to the Registry. The Registry then “flags” or “marks” the owner of the car and the registration. A flag at the Registry means that the owner cannot renew his or her license or registration until the excise and all fees and interest have been paid. After a stop on a public way, the police may also remove a flagged driver from the vehicle and tow the vehicle.
To renew after flagging, you must pay ALL outstanding excise bills in your name or with the same registration number. Payments may be made at Town Hall or at our Deputy Collector in Reading MA. Payment must be in cash, money order or bank check. Once paid, the flag is removed within minutes through an electronic notice to the Registry.
15. What is tax title?
Tax title is a recorded lien upon the property for failure to pay real estate tax. The recording of the lien at the Registry of Deeds or the Land Court is also referred to as a “tax taking”. The town records a lien only after numerous notices to the owner of record (and the current owner, if the property has been sold), including an advertised notice in the local newspaper. The lien does not give the town any right to occupy or interfere with the enjoyment of the property. Six months after the recording, however, the town has the right to begin foreclosure proceedings on the property. A foreclosure results in title to the property passing to the town and allows the town, after a time, to sell the property at auction.
16. What is personal property tax?
Personal property tax is a tax on the business equipment of an unincorporated business enterprise. The tax is based on the value of the equipment as reported to the Board of Assessors on what is called the “form of list”. The tax rate is the same as that for commercial and industrial property.
17. My excise tax bill is the same as last year. Why didn’t it go down?
The Registry of Motor Vehicles values automobiles according to a fixed schedule of depreciation. The schedule lowers the value by a set percentage in each of the first five years and then fixes the value for the rest of the life of the car. Therefore, after the fifth year, the excise tax stays the same, year after year.
18. Why did I get two excise tax bills in the same year?
Each time a car is registered or re-registered, the Registry of Motor Vehicles prepares a new excise bill. So when you buy a car, you will get another bill. However, you can apply to the local Board of Assessors for abatement of the tax on the original bill for the rest of the year. So if you register your new car in March, you will get a new bill for March through December on the new car but you are due an abatement and a refund for April through December on the old car (the tax is figured in whole months only).
19. My daughter is in the armed forces. Does she have to pay her excise tax?
Yes. The tax must be paid. However, while she is on active duty, no penalty fees are imposed for late payment, she cannot be marked for non-renewal at the Registry of Deeds and the interest on the unpaid amount is half the statutory rate.
20. I had a broken water pipe. Now I have a huge sewer bill. Can I do anything about that?
The town’s by-laws allow abatement of the sewer use fees for water that does not enter the town’s sewer system. The water loss must be significant (more than five billable units or five hundred cubic feet). You should contact the Collector’s office to discuss what documentation is required.
21. I used autopay at my bank to pay my bill, but the payment was not credited to my account. Why?
"Autopay" checks arrive from the bank without a bill stub. Without the bill, we have to relay on whatever the taxpayer inserts in the "memo" field of the check. Often, all we have to go on is "taxes" or "sewer", so crediting that payment turns into a research project. In order to ensure prompt and accurate posting, the check memo should state the type of bill and the bill number, e.g. "real estate bill #xxxx". Please note that your tax bill number changes every year so the memo field should be updated regularly.
Another problem with autopay checks is that they sometimes are sent to the address on the return envelope sent with the bill. That address is our bank lockbox service. Without a bill stub the bank's automatic processing equipment cannot post the payment at all, so the payment is sent to the town for resolution. It can take several days to a week for the Collector's office to receive that payment, research it and post it. Autopay checks must be sent directly to the Collector's office at the town's mailing address: PO Box 306, Dedham MA 02027.