Front Foot Benefit Charges (FFBC) can lead to great confusion for homeowners.  These are charges for the installation of pipes that connect homes to the public water and sewer system.  Before 1998, WSSC did all this work.  The charges appeared on the homeowner’s property tax bill, so it was clear what was owed and when it was due.  However, in 1998, Maryland changed the law for Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties to allow developers, rather than WSSC, to install the pipes and then recoup the expenditure from the homeowners.  These charges no longer appeared on the property tax bill, and homeowners did not have a consistent method of notice as to what was owed and when.

FFBC obligations are secured with a covenant filed in the land records.  However, if this is not clearly disclosed either at time of the initial sale, or upon resale to a subsequent buyer, the homeowner may not recognize the yearly bill when it arrives in the mail.  Many report that the letter looked like a scam and that the bill was thrown away. The covenant (debt) usually allows for late fees, costs, and/or attorney’s fees which can continue to accrue until the homeowner is forced into foreclosure. Maryland passed a law in 2016 requiring sellers to notify purchasers of any FFBC to try to help address these concerns. (Annotated Code of Maryland, Real Property Article, §14-117).  All homeowners need to make sure that they know to whom they are obligated to pay FFBCs, and that they are up to date in making these payments.

If a consumer is unsure if the bill is a legitimate FFBC, or a scam attempt, they can find references to this in title insurance policy exclusions, the land records, or the sales documents. They can also contact their Realtor or the settlement attorney. 


Are new home developers and the private utility companies subject to any uniform or standard fee structure?

Pursuant to §25-405 of the Public Utilities Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland, WSSC may allow a developer to design and construct water and sewer facilities. The facilities must be designed, constructed, and inspected in accordance with WSSC standards and all WSSC laws, regulations, and policies.  The Office of the Inspector General must review and approve the costs incurred by the developer. The Commission decides whether to approve the facility, and, if it does, the facility must be accepted as part of the WSSC system.

What disclosure notices do the original and subsequent home purchasers receive regarding the obligation to pay these fees?

Section 14-117 of the Real Property Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland details the disclosures that must be given to original and subsequent home purchasers regarding deferred water and sewer charges. In a contract for the initial sale of residential real property, the contract must disclose the estimated cost of any charges for which the purchaser is liable. A contract for the resale of residential property must contain a notice using specific language as stated in §14-117(5)(ii).

What information is provided on invoices to explain how the fees were assessed and to document that the invoice is valid?

The information provided on invoices varies from community to community.  The laws referenced above are silent as to any requirement that invoices even be sent, or what information must be contained in any invoices that are sent.