A Philadelphia Story: No Running Water For Eight Years

Legal barriers block water access for residents in ‘tangled title’ cases.

News Story (Pennsylvania)

Brett Walton
Circle of Blue
December 13, 2017

Tags: Housing: Title

Organizations mentioned/involved: Philadelphia Volunteers for Indigent Program, Community Legal Services (CLS) of Philadelphia


Entanglements on home ownership generally happen when the title owner dies without transferring legal rights to the home and water bills are not kept current. They can also arise through a number of informal property transfer arrangements. Problems do not necessarily develop immediately, explained Kelly Gastley, a managing attorney with Philadelphia VIP, a clinic that offers free legal services to poor households.

“When everyone pays their bills and is up-to-date, there’s no problem,” Gastley told Circle of Blue. In many cases the disrupting factor does not occur for years or decades. “It’s not until they get behind in taxes or bills that it becomes very important. No one wants to talk to you unless you have title in your name.”