Local governments plunder homes of homeowners to cover property tax debts – zoohousenews.com
(Natural News) We all know that not paying your taxes can have repercussions, but you might be surprised to learn that 12 states regularly confiscate dramatically more than they’re owed by homeowners who default on their property tax payments at a practice are that has been termed “home-stealing.”
A new report from the Pacific Legal Foundation, illustrating “the unfairness of home-stealing through tax foreclosure,” shows how homeowners across the country lost more than $777 million worth of life savings on thousands of homes through transactions from 2014 to 2021 and they note that the actual number is likely higher because data was not available for every state. Homeowners lost an average of 86 percent of their home equity in such transactions.
To understand how it works, imagine you owe someone $12 and they take a $100 bill from your wallet and keep the change. That’s what happens when these states take people’s homes to cover delinquent property taxes.
For example, when 93-year-old Minnesota woman Geraldine Tyler failed to pay about $2,300 in property taxes, Hennepin County foreclosed on her Minneapolis condo and sold it for $40,000. Rather than refund her the $25,000 left over after paying the back taxes and associated costs such as penalties and interest, the government kept all the money for itself.
When Kevin Fair of Nebraska fell into arrears on his property taxes after leaving his job to care for his dying wife, Scotts Bluff County sold the property tax debt to a private company that attempted to collect the taxes plus 14 percent interest. When he couldn’t get a loan, the district treasurer assigned his house to the investor. That left Fair with nothing, even though his house was worth about 11 times the debt he owed.
In one of the more outrageous cases, a Michigan man’s home was seized for underpayment of just $8.41, leaving him nothing, though he’s one of the lucky few to successfully fight the move in court.
Stories like this are all too common, with the End Home Equity Theft report noting that nearly 8,000 homes were taken as payment for property tax debts that were worth just 14 percent of the home’s value. This means that private investors and government agencies are keeping millions of dollars worth of equity that people have built into their homes. Unfortunately, it is often older people and people who are financially struggling who are the victims of these measures.
Can your state rob you of your home equity?
In Vermont, Mississippi, Virginia, Michigan and New Hampshire, state supreme courts have ruled the practice unconstitutional. In states like Florida, the property can be sold to pay off the debt, but the remaining money is returned to the previous owner.
However, New York, Illinois, Colorado, Arizona, Oregon, Minnesota, Nebraska, Massachusetts, Alabama, Maine, South Dakota, New Jersey, and Washington, DC see the situation differently and allow people’s homes to be stolen through home theft. These laws have allowed investors and government officials to take over homes that have been in families for many generations, leaving some people homeless with a tax bill that is sometimes less than 1 percent of the value of their property.
Angela Erickson, Strategic Research Director for the Pacific Legal Foundation, said: “Home-theft is robbing thousands of people of their homes and all the equity they have built. A system that allows governments and private investors to take more than is owed creates a perverse incentive to work against the homeowner — not with the homeowner — to get the tax debt paid.”
Government agencies collected about $26 million more than they were owed during the period studied, while private investors who bought tax liens collected $250 million more than they were owed in this appalling practice.
Groups across the political spectrum are firmly opposed to the practice, and only those who benefit from the system speak out in favor of it. The Pacific Legal Foundation notes that most people don’t even know this is happening and they hope to raise awareness of the issue and get all states to ban this inappropriate practice.
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