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An owner of property who wishes to dispute a water usage charge must first apply for an abatement with the city or town water department or district. If the water department or district denies the appeal, an owner may proceed in one of two ways.
Paid water bills: If the owner has timely paid the disputed charge, the owner may file a civil action to recover excess water bill payments in either the District Court under G.L. c. 218, § 19 (where the amount of expected recovery does not exceed $2,500) or the Superior Court under G.L. c. 212 § 4. See Epstein v. Executive Secretary of Bd. of Selectmen of Sharon, 22 Mass. App. Ct. 135 (1986).
Unpaid water bills: If a water charge remains unpaid, it becomes a lien on the property, and the Appellate Tax Board will have jurisdiction over the unpaid charge. See General Laws chapter 40, sections 42A through 42F. An owner whose appeal to the city or town's water department or district has been denied or deemed denied may file an appeal at the Appellate Tax Board upon the same terms and conditions as a person aggrieved by the refusal of the assessors to abate a tax (see General Laws chapter 59, section 65).
PLEASE NOTE: The Appellate Tax Board does not have jurisdiction over water or sewer betterment charges. See General Laws chapter 80, sections 7 and 10.