Losing It All

American families losing their homes because they didn't pay their utility bill.
3:00 | 11/12/12

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Transcript for Losing It All
Tonight, an out of work actor in baltimore is dealing with some real life drama that could leave him homeless. It all started with an unpaid water bill. And it turns out, this is happening all over the country. Abc's mark greenblatt investigates. Reporter: On hbo's "the wire," richard burton played tough-as-nails gangster "SHAMROCK" McGINTY. Slim said they got the eye on marlo. Reporter: But burton lost his job when "the wire" went off the air. And today, the accomplished actor and musician is in the middle of a real life drama, at risk of losing his home to foreclosure, all over a disputed $1,000 water bill. That smaller bill is there, but after you add the interest, after you add the 18% and the lawyer fees, it's unjust. It's wrong. Reporter: Burton refused to pay. But the city of baltimore turned to a controversial tactic to collect. Selling burton's debt to a private company, which then put a lien on his home. Then you have no choice to pay or lose your home. That can't be right. Reporter: Now, the company, lien logic, is asking for additional interest and high legal fees, too. Ballooning burton's tab to limb $5,000. Could actually lose their home for the failure to pay a $200 or $300 water or sewer bill. Reporter: The national consumer law center says thousands of homeowners all over the u.S. Are threatened with foreclosure every year because of unpaid utility bills and taxes. In rhode island, a $474 sewer bill cost one woman her home. The company that took possession later sold it for $85,000. Back in baltimore, vicky valentine lost her house over a partially paid water bill. You'd been in this home for 33 years? Yes. Reporter: And now all of a sudden, you're out on the street. Yes, and that's not a fun place to be. Reporter: Lien logic makes $100 million a year, profiting from its lien business. We tracked down one of the company's co-founders after he refused to sit down with us. You're taking homes from people for small unpaid water bills. Like I said, I decline the interview. Reporter: And in the end -- thanks for your time. Appreciate you coming by. Reporter: You have nothing to say to the people that lose their homes to you? Many cities like houston will just shut your water off if you don't pay, but they'd never give anyone the right to take your home. But david, it is different everywhere. If you have questions, you need to call your utility. Losing your home over a water or sewer bill seems unreal. Mark, thanks for asking the tough questions tonight.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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