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Man Underpaid Property Tax by $8.41 County Seized Home, Sold It-Kept Profits (reason.com)
327 points by Benlights 15 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 184 comments



Seems like a great case to get that law struck down at least getting the seizure reversed/compensated. Seizing an entire home and pocketing all proceeds of sale over tiny debt seems like a perfect case for the seizure being unreasonable.


Most places have the opposite where the city would get the 8.00 and the owner get the remaining amount. Which would mean the city wouldn't bother.


A bank foreclosing on a mortgage is only entitled only to the value of the money owed. Those laws are structured specifically to avoid the perverse incentive created by being able to receive $60,000 on an $8.00 debt.


The city, county or any other government institution is not supposed to profit off this kind of affairs at all. Government must be funded by taxes and taxes alone, all excess collections must be returned to taxpayers unconditionally.

Civil asset forfeiture and this kind of laws just make racketeers out of government officials.

And yeah - $8 isn't a good reason for seizing someone's house, when they can easily get a small claims court to summarily get that $8.


In this case not being worth their time is a good thing. They can always asses interest and penalties until it’s worth their time prepossessing a home. But, when someone is making a good faith effort it’s crazy to escalate this far.


I'm no lawyer but this absolutely has to be unconstitutional. A more egregious example of unreasonable search and seizure is difficult to imagine.


Its close to as bad as civil asset forfeiture that the police use just to take whatever they want. In civil asset forfeiture they don't even need a court order to do it, they can just take it if they say they think it was related to a crime. Want it back and you have to sue. No public defender is provided if you choose to sue, meaning that people unable to afford an attorney just have to accept the police taking their possessions / cash.


Civil asset forfeiture was severely limited last year in a unanimous Supreme Court decision. https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/18pdf/17-1091_5536.pdf


Fantastic and a bit surprising considering the recent composition if the court. Wonder why this was allowed to continue so long?

Some lawyers will work on contingency. My wife is an attorney and has done some cases where a large of amount of cash was seized. It's a tough fight, but she has had success recovering assets from the government.


This feels like the kind of case that will be appealed up until the law is struck down.


Nope. Courts have upheld it. And it's not a rare practice.

https://www.povertylaw.org/clearinghouse/articles/Remedies


Perfect case to hold the administration personally accountable.


By “administration”, are you referring to the office of the POTUS? I bash that office as much as any, but this is a state level issue, and even at the national level, it would be a judicial, not an executive, branch concern.


Notice you're assuming the parent's reference and then saying it is wrong.


There's an implicit "if" there, but perhaps I could have made that clearer.


Someone is in charge of the office "just following orders" and not questioning authority. That office should be accountable.

Thanks to OP who spotted this.


What part do you think is unconstitutional? I think it would be very difficult to frame an argument that property tax is unconstitutional. All 50 states collect property taxes.

The owner in the article had unpaid property taxes for over 3 years and apparently underpaid the amount due right before a deed sale because he miscalculated interest. It's hard to know exactly what happened from reading the article alone. A court judgement would state the facts of the case more clearly. If the miscalculation was the fault of the county, it seems like they were in error and the deed should be invalidated. If the county gave him a quote and he intentionally underpaid (for whatever reason he justified it with), I wouldn't expect him to have recourse under the law.

States are broadly divided into tax deed and tax lien states. Michigan is a tax deed state and I am not familiar with the particulars of their law. I live in a tax lien state (Colorado). When you don't pay your property taxes, a lien is sold at auction. If you don't pay after 3 years, the lien holder can apply for a tax deed. This process takes 6 months. The owner is attempted to be served and notices are published in the local newspaper. You need to contact the county for the payoff amount, but the interest in general on the lien accrues monthly computed on simple interest (non compounding). The rate this year is 12%, so 1% per month.

There needs to be a consequence for not paying your property taxes or few would pay them.


The unconstitutional bit is the seizure of $100k over an $8 underpayment. If your property goes to auction with a lien, the lien holder is paid back but you still get the remaining proceeds from the auction.


That isn't how it works in tax lien states. The amount of money owed is irrelevant in the eyes of the county, only that you did not pay money owed in the time allotted. And as I said, they are quite clear (at least in my state) about the amount owed.

A property with a tax lien does not go to auction. The property tax lien holder is more senior to all other liens, except a federal tax lien. This includes being senior to mortgages, which is why mortgage companies typically keep your property taxes in escrow (to ensure they are paid).

Once a tax deed is issued, no compensation is paid to the previous owner. The title is not marketable for a period of 7 years. That is, a title company will not issue a warranted deed on a tax deed transfer. To resolve this, the deed holder needs to wait or bring a quiet title suit. The previous owner may get compensated in a quiet title action to sign a quit claim deed or similar to rectify the quiet title suit.


If you must pay to continue "own" something, you dont own it.


Yeah exactly. I remember when I was a kid with my dad going to the court house to pay property taxes. I was asking about property taxes and he said something along the lines of "You don't own land, you rent it from the government." It was a good explanation for a child. The internet is full of crackpot legal theories (sovereign citizen, etc) that contest this idea. None hold up in court.


There's an apt joke for this: Q: Why is suicide illegal? A: Destruction of government property.

Truth is - property and property rights are largely a convention that we agree upon, that convention is how state/government is created.

Remember that there is only one sovereign in every single country on this planet - king, despot, president, parliament or the people. Individual sovereignty is practically non-existent.

You don't own the land or your body. We just agreed to protect each other's freedoms and grant certain protected rights.


For primary residences, I think it's something that will get fixed at the local/state level.


Why isn't property tax automatically taken out of a mortgage escrow account?


It typically is. The mortgage company sends a check to the county when annual property taxes are due. Does your mortgage escrow work different than that?


Why do we have to take a stab at how much we owe in taxes when it’s known by tax collectors?


This happens all the time. I have a line of credit and I'll log on, view the current outstanding debt and pay it off in full. Some time later I'll log in again to see that I still owe $0.xx amount which is the interest I had accrued in the time it took the funds to move from one account to another. It sounds like this is the same situation this man faced, and yet he lost a $60,000 investment.


I recently paid a toll online (TxTag), and I paid the "total balance", but I missed that you have to check a second box (the amount "in collections") in order to actually pay everything that's due, and then I got hit with further late fees for that part, with no warning that, after this payment, I was still accruing penalties.

Screenshot of the interface:

https://photos.app.goo.gl/yAMrNg4VkrP68SLf6


Wow. I wonder how many other people got nailed by this? Ticking "total balance due" would've made me immediately figure everything was free and clear as well. Worse, since the "outstanding collection amount" is less than the total, it's easy to assume it would be included, you know, when you click total.


It's a pretty unfortunate dark pattern that's wide spread in these contexts; I remember my senior year of high school and freshman year of college there were no end of mandatory workshops we had to attend about finances and this exact phenomenon.


I have a collection from EZ-Pass in NJ.

The toll booth didn't read my EZ-Pass on MY car registered to ME an EZ-Pass customer. So EZ-Pass sent me a bill in the mail for $2.50 + $50 administration fee.

I went on their website to pay, and they gave me an option to add the license plate to my account and only pay the $2.50.

I did that.

Last week, after never hearing from EZ Pass again, I get a letter in the mail from a collections agency for the $50.


$50 admin fee for paying outside of the EZ-Pass system?


$50 admin fee for "running" a toll on the Garden State Parkway... funny is it read my EZ pass on the toll booth before and on the exit, so not sure how or why they couldn't use common sense to find out that it was their error.

If I had run that booth, then I'd still be on the GSP right now.


So you’re telling me you can just pay off the current amount? Effectively allowing you to ignore the amount in collections until they choose to settle or never pay?


Oh, I suspect it would go on your credit report if you kept ignoring it. And yes, they give you that option, to pay the current amount, except they misleadingly (or falsely) call it the "total balance".


What a horrific dark UX pattern.


Amen. All in all I ended up paying about $33 for one wrong turn onto a quarter mile of toll road.


Serious question... do we call it a "dark pattern" when the design was unintentionally flawed by incompetence?

Or is it only a dark pattern if the design intended to be deceptive by it creator?


If somebody stands to profit by a bad design, they don’t get the benefit of the doubt.


Assuming that's a Texas NTTA toll, don't pay that online. Call the number on the notice. If you're polite they'll usually waive the fees provided you pay the toll in full. The website has been terrible since the mid 2000s


I lost half a semester at university because of something like this. I paid my tuition in full, something like $6000, which didn't include a book store purchase I had made weeks before. I got two generic post cards reminding me to pay my tuition and nothing else until I got a letter informing me I had been unenrolled. No bill, no phone call.

I never went back.


It sounds like regulation is required that when an outstanding debt is shown, a payoff quote good for X days must be provided (and when you pay off, you receive a refund for excess interest depending on when the payment settles). My mortgage servicers do it, my auto loan provider does it, why is the county not required to do it? If you expect citizens to act in good faith in paying their debts, help them to do so inexpensively.


Who regulates the regulators?


Citizens, activists, journalists.

EDIT: @dredmorbius Thank you for the assist!


And lawyers, courts, and judges. For completeness.


In this case? Because they can then seize your property and make more money. In cases like income tax? Because tax prep companies spend money to ensure congress doesn't put them out of business. Perverse incentives abound.


The IRS has no idea how much you've donated to Goodwill, paid in medical expenses, or any other number of deductions.


90% of taxpayers don't itemize with the standard deduction expanded to as high as it is now [1]. And if you want to get crazy, all of that data could be reported trivially to the IRS (my health insurance coverage already is [1095-B/C], reporting my health care spend from my insurance company is a few extra bytes on that form electronically sent).

It is entirely reasonable to have tax collection agencies send a good faith estimate with a window of time for corrections if you have data they do not have. There are enough threads about the evil that is Intuit that their efforts to block the IRS from offering free tax prep need not be rehashed here.

[1] https://taxfoundation.org/90-percent-taxpayers-projected-tcj... (Nearly 90 Percent of Taxpayers Are Projected to Take the TCJA’s Expanded Standard Deduction)


Agreed. I think it would be better for everyone involved (excepting HR Block and their ilk) if the only thing tax payers had to do was file an amendment if their deductions didn't match what the IRS sent out. For the vast majority of people, they wouldn't have to resubmit anything. For those who do have more complicated tax scenarios, it's still dramatically streamlined.


Most people don't itemize now, that's true, but the IRS has no way to know who will itemize and who won't.

We could require all transactions that could theoretically be deductions be sent to the IRS, sure. "Trivially" is not the right word to describe it though. Think about charitable donations to tiny operations that have no IT department trying to figure out SFTP drops to the IRS.

I have to correct my cost basis for RSUs almost every year from my eTrade paperwork. Could they do it correctly in the first place? Sure.

Could it all be magically calculated for me someday, sure, anything's possible. But seeing how financial companies work from the inside, I chalk it up to incompetence more than Intuit's malice.


> Most people don't itemize now, that's true, but the IRS has no way to know who will itemize and who won't.

So just make the people who will itemize fill out a form and go through that whole process. Everyone else can just pay the bill and not worry about it.


As it is now, the IRS has a pretty good idea of what you owe, but offers virtually no help figuring it out. If you're wrong, they can come after you with punitive fees years later. In my case, they told me my employer had sent them an updated form with a corrected date on it 2 years earlier - which my employer neglected to tell me. I never knew about the mistake and my accountant assumed it was correct too. So not only did I owe $40,000 in back taxes and interest, my request to not pay fines because it was an honest mistake was denied, and I also had to pay $6,000 in fines. Because of a mistake they knew about and didn't tell me about for 2 years, that EVEN A FUCKING PROFESSIONAL TAX ACCOUNTANT MISSED.

But no - they don't know in advance who will have additional deductions so why bother with any of it for the 90% that don't? People are already going to, and often paying for, private services that they implicitly trust to tell them what they owe. Why can't the literal authority on the matter tell you first?


It sounds like your beef is with the employer, not the IRS.

The IRS knew your return was inaccurate when you submitted it. And it sounds like it was off by enough to trigger statutory penalties, which was appropriate based on the facts provided.

Yes, it sucks that your employer gave you the wrong statement, but there's nothing the IRS can do about it. Your employer had a legal obligation to give you the corrected statement when they filed a correction with the IRS, and if they did not your recourse is to go after your employer to make you whole for the penalties and interest owed. The IRS is not in the business of determining who is telling the truth about not receiving legally required documents.

Why can't the literal authority on the matter tell you first?

Because Intuit and HRBlock spend a lot of money preventing the IRS from implementing that sort of system. The IRS has proposed an EZ-file system like they have in Australia or in the EU many times, and has been shot down every time.


>> The IRS knew your return was inaccurate when you submitted it.

And didn't tell me for 2 years. I'm fine to pay what I owed. Not really cool with 2 years of interest and punitive feeds.

Believe me my HR rep got an earful, but unless I want to put up money to sue, that's all that will be happening. A lawyer didn't think I stood enough of a chance or would gain enough per hour to take the case on contingency.


The IRS knew in the sense that the computer system knew when it processed your return. No human knew until they reviewed your return, a review that was probably triggered because your return was flagged for the uncorrected discrepancy.


That's largely irrelevant. A computer picks up a discrepancy but no action is taken, and then I'm on the hook for interest and late fees?

But then I've heard "it's your fault we programmed the computer that way" from more than one government entity.


Literally every other first world country sends a receipt with how much the government took, how much you're owed or how much you owe and the ability to amend. Ours is intentionally made more painful because of anti-tax zealots that want it so and have admitted it. There is zero reason our taxes need to be as stressful or as Stone consuming as they are. Most of the time your "donations" still don't add up to more than the standard deduction. If you're wealthy enough to be above that, you're probably already using a tax professional and own either real estate or a business.


The IRS could actually write the software themselves and fully integrate what they already know with the option to fill in what they don't.


Yes, they could... If Intuit and HRBlock didn't spend a lot of money each year preventing the IRS from doing exactly that.

The IRS has proposed this many times, and have been blocked by Congress just as many times.


I'll grant you that they don't know your donations and major tax deductibles. But your medical expenses would have to be very high before you would even report them to IRS in the first place.

Do you directly spend more than 10% of your gross income on medical expenses? No? Then you can't deduct them.

In addition, most medical expense reporting is already reported to IRS. They literally get your whole pay stub information - gross pay, withholdings, 401k, medical deductions, pre-tax expenses, etc...

PS: I ran a company in one of the "high regulation" EU countries and the amount of tax prep I do today in USA jumped from 30 min per year for myself and 3 employees to 30h per year myself! Oh... I didn't have to pay anything to file my tax documentation online and I got my estimated tax docs pre-filled by the tax authorities.


Because lobbying is legal, and excellent ROI for TurboTax's maker.


Because it's a racket. Both government and the CPA cronies are complicit.

Pure and simple.

Rational countries disallow these kinds of activities, and give you all the information about you that they have collected. But Intuit would lose a lot of $79 customers.


A reminder for whoever has rental properties - use your permanent address or a PO Box for all of your mail related to rental property... it’s dangerous to rely on tenants to pass mail to you - they may simply forget.


You want to use a commercial mail processor who will scan all incoming mail and electronically deliver it to you. As a landlord, you will also want to set calendar reminders to follow up with any government agency where recurring monies are due to confirm receipt. You want those confirmations in writing whenever possible (ie paper trail).

Disclaimer: Landlord, business owner, automate all the things, all that jazz.



Only gets you the front scans of the pieces, not the contents. Also only shows in transit (doesn't enumerate the facility where the scan was taken or the data/time of the capture), not delivery confirmation if the sender did not pay for and request that service. Great start though, I hope USPS expands on it for contents. I'd rather give them my money instead of a third party processor.


I'd love to hear who you use for your mail processor. I have tried a couple of them over the years, but haven't always had the best results.


A neighbor got a call from a local realtor five years ago asking why they were selling the house. They weren’t and discovered that they forgot to pay property taxes for the previous year. They quickly paid the taxes and all was good.

On the flip side: a friend buys up many tax lien properties, usually for very little money.


I'm sure the politicians responsible will campaign that they "stood up to a tax evading landlord."


They were thinking of the children.


And people are surprised with increasing suicide and drug abuse rates in the US... This kind of random and unusually cruel punishment can do anyone in.


I’d rather focus not on the legality of this (which should of course be fixed) but instead the people who played a direct role in this happening. They shouldn’t be able to drop their kids off at school, pick up a coffee at Starbucks, or show their faces at a family holiday without being confronted by the people around them - from now until forever. If I were this guy, telling the truth of what they knowingly did to everyone around them would be my personal mission until the day I die.


There was a man who was pushed too far once, by the local government. He used his free time to build a bulldozer, covered in armor, and do millions in property damage. I'm not saying he was right or wrong, but there is a serious cost associated with this kind of injustice, and its not entirely unpredictable.


I think you are referring to Marvin Heemeyer in Granby, Colorado and he was absolutely wrong. I can't believe you think he was somehow justified in an attempted mass murder.

A concrete plant was being constructed on vacant land adjacent to his shop. He originally agreed to sell his land, but then backed out. He was angry the concrete plant cut off his shortcut access through their vacant land (he had no easement). So he decided to try to murder anyone who he viewed as standing in his way. It is very lucky that he got stuck before he could fully execute his plan.

"Investigators later found Heemeyer's handwritten list of targets. According to the police, it included the buildings he destroyed, the local Catholic church (which he did not damage), and the names of various people who had sided against him in past disputes."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marvin_Heemeyer

"He drove the machine out of his shop through the wall, then plowed through the concrete plant, the Town Hall, a newspaper office, a former judge’s widow’s home, a hardware store, and other homes. Authorities realized that every business or home that had been bulldozed had some connection to Heemeyer and his plight against the zoning committee."

https://allthatsinteresting.com/marvin-heemeyer-killdozer


I think you are misinterpreting me. I am not suggesting his actions were justified. I am saying an opaque Kafkaesque bureaucracy with questionable motives dehumanized and at times, harassed this person to the point where they spent 18 months of their life plotting revenge. Revenge they executed without the loss of any life besides their own, which in my mind, does deserve to be recognized as "less bad, but still bad".


It was good luck nobody was killed - he was not trying to spare lives. I see him as a mentally ill man who was upset when he didn't get his way. The zoning on an adjacent lot to his business changed in a way he opposed. He then said God told him in a hot tub to exact revenge on those on the wrong side of this ruling.

It's akin to something like the Oklahoma City bombing if the terrorists had blown themselves up in the process. But people think it was "cool" that he built his own tank and ignore the rest.


The local people and government antagonized this man so he made composite armor, converted his bulldozer into a tank complete with mounted guns and started demolishing the buildings of his enemies. Explosives and bullets did nothing so they actually thought about deploying anti-tank weapons and attack helicopters against this guy. One civilian in a bulldozer!

There is no doubt he was wrong but the fact is he built a tank. Can't help but respect his achievement.


If I as a tourist get an unreasonable/illegal parking ticket (looking at you oakland), I am likely to spend less money in your city if I have a choice in the future, esp if I submit proof that I wasn't parked where you said I was for the amount of time and you deny the appeal.


VA Beach for me. I paid to park. The meter was broken do it didn't properly register the amount paid. Still got a ticket even after explaining. They told me my only recompense was to spend more than the ticket to fight it, in person only, at some unspecified date in the future. We spent nearly nothing we didn't have to for the rest of the trip. Hope you got your parking money.


> I'm not saying he was right or wrong

I'm going to go ahead and say he was wrong.


Interestingly enough, Heemeyer has some kind of a cult following in Russia. I believe that Russians think that it is far more likely that he was a victim of a corrupt government. I find this interesting because it goes to show how differences in personal experiences lead people to have wildly diverging interpretations of the same facts.


The basic problem with the US legal system is that it operates on the wording of the law rather than the spirit of the law.

Unfortunately, making the spirit of the law overrule the wording is subject to even more casual manipulation and corruption.


It has been said before that laws/bills should come with an intent or goal attached, similar to the useful type of source code comments.

Judges exist because strictly parsing the words of a law is not always enough, and knowing whether the application of the law is in line with why it was coined would be a good step.


This topic frequently comes up with the "Zombie Homes" in my NY town. A non-incumbent mayoral candidate actually proposed a 3 month window where the land owner is notified before the city seizes the property, condemns the home, and demolishes it.

No one wins in these institution vs. institution battles. The government does not have the agility to act as an intermediary between a public that wants land utilized and property owners who may be a single citizen or a multinational conglomerate. In my opinion, the more I hear about squatters rights, the more it sounds like the only appropriate solution.


My mind silently filled in a missing “MM” after the amount in the title. I had to go back and read it again to clear to my confusion. That is how ridiculous it is.


The title is missing important punctuation (a period after $8.41) that is in the original article; this makes it difficult to parse in a single pass.


am i missing something here? i thought that the county sent you a tax bill for the amount you owed and then you just paid the bill. that's how it's always been in numerous states that i've lived. heck... i even paid the tax on a credit card so i even got points ;) I then get an emailed receipt so i have a record, but also so i know that the payment went through. i can even refer to my credit card statement if there is ever an issue. also, if you are ever late or owe, the county has always sent numerous and i mean numerous letters saying so.


It sounds like, where you live, the municipality doesn't have an incentive to not inform you of late or owed taxes. The issue is that the government in this case has every reason to not inform the property owner of late taxes owed.


He didn't pay the 2011 tax bill that was due on time. A year later, entered into a multi-year payment plan to paid the overdue tax + interest, and failed to pay the full amount owed during the payment plan. The state eventually seized and auctioned the property and now the owner and his marketing firm claims he is owed all the money the state made above his unpaid bills.


another entry on the list of why it's surprisingly bad to live in the US.


This is the original purpose of property tax.


How about you don't owe $8.41, though


[flagged]


He would have died. Others possibly as well. He would not have kept his house.

There are cases to make for the second amendment. A single citizen taking the law into his own hands and shooting at cops is not one of them.


Depends on who the cops are. Such action is not unprecedented:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Athens_(1946)


I dunno. That incident pre-dates SWAT and 9/11. Nowadays they could just launch a missile at his house, bulldoze the lot, and sell it to some corp to build a parking lot or a suburb or something.


Let's not be hyperbolic here. SWAT doesn't have missiles. They will send a bomb in on a robot and blow you up instead.


Or drop explosives from a helicopter like the police did to the MOVE compound in Philly.


Fine --- a slow missile.


They do have grenade launchers though. Much cheaper than the robot.


I never said shoot at cops. Just hunker down with a big sign that says "OAKLAND COUNTY IS STEALING MY HOUSE OVER $8.41". I guarantee the media would cover this.


What are you expecting him to do with those guns?

Who are you expecting to show up when some guy barricades himself in his house with a bunch of guns?

I've witnessed a standoff first-hand. The police will show up and attempt to take down the person in question. They don't just hang around with their thumbs up their ass. They have riot shields, body armor, and they storm in from every direction with 20+ guys.

SWAT does not fuck around.


Apparently SWAT and police are stupid and incompetent beyond belief then, if they are willing to endanger lives over eight dollars and when the alternative is just walking away and taking that money from his bank account.

Maybe they still make those lemon-activated thinking-hats from the hitchhikers guide? Adding those to the issued gear might help.


It's not about $8. It's about challenging their authority.

Don't be deceived - there are many authoritarians wearing uniforms.


Actually.... Defending ones' house from government tyranny is one of the most valid reasons for Second Amendment.


Better than being 83 and homeless? I'll take my death, you can keep that precious 'freedom'


Maybe he could get his way with a gun, but then he'd have to carry around a gun all the time. And then what happens when the friends and lovers of the people he's hurt catch him without his gun? Or what if they get an even better gun?

Big gun diplomacy is a problem, not a solution... unless you're an arms dealer.


The idea that the second amendment exists to protect us from a tyrannical government has never manifested in reality. What history has demonstrated is that the only time second amendment advocates have shown any willingness to defend their rights is over the question of gun ownership.

Slavery? Military conscription? No problem.

Regulations in the 19th century? Income taxes in the early 20th? No problem.

Farming regulations? Corn quotas? Gold seizures? No problem.

Price and wage controls? Wealth redistribution? Healthcare centralization? Tariffs? No problem.

TSA? NSA? Free speech zones? Warrantless wiretapping? No problem.

If/when gun confiscation happens, I doubt there will be any resistance.


[flagged]



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And where does it talk about the plight of this poor, poor libertarian, law abiding man that lost his home because of an $8.41 oversight? When a story is legit it gets picked by multiple outlets. When it gets picked up by reason.com they tell you about the seizure but they conveniently omitthe part where he dug his heels in over this $8.41 payment and refused to settle his bill for 2 decades. Threw the 14 notices he received in the garbage. Missed 6 court appearances, spent a night in jail. threatened the district attorney. then finally the seized his property and sold it.

Not saying that system isn't problematic. I am saying this story and its source are trash.


HoAs are no different with their cancerous rentseeking behavior. Here in TX, they can place a lien on your house if you don't pay your dues.


Same here in TN. And it's not limited to just dues - they can fine you for violations and place a lien for lack of payment of those fines, as well.

I rent in a nice neighborhood, and the HOA really dislikes rentals. But they don't have enough support to get the bylaws changed to make it more difficult to rent. So instead they abuse the fine system by selectively enforcing mostly-ignored bylaws to create arbitrary violations for rented units and implicitly discourage owners from renting.

The owner of my house never passed through any of the fines to me[1], and was very apologetic. But the notices finally irritated me to the point of putting up outside cameras. I gave my landlord video evidence of the HOA people logging violations outside, and walking right past the exact same violations[2] at several neighbors houses without even stopping. The violation letters stopped shortly after, and my landlord cut my rent by a sizable chunk as a thank you for helping him get that thorn out of his side.

[1] Based on him giving me a break on the rent going forward, and my original rent being par for the neighborhood, I assume the market rate was already being padded significantly by everyone to account for the constant fines.

[2] These are violations like the bushes hiding the HVAC unit from street view not being full enough (in the dead of winter when the leaves were thinned out), an older mailbox looking like an older mailbox despite it being consistent with the rest of the houses on the street, the trashcan still being on the street at 4PM on trash day despite everyone else not being home yet to pull theirs up yet either, the yard not being cut that week despite it having been raining too heavily for anyone to have cut their yard recently, etc.


I feel like I must have really lucked out with our HOA. No drama. We pay a fee. They take care of the trees, common areas and keeping ice off the roads. Last year they cut down a bunch of trees that were being killed off by emerald ash borers, and this year planted new trees all along the road ways. We have 6 new trees on our property planted by the HOA.


How else do you expect the HOA to collect on legitimate debts? I have zero sympathy for freeloaders who fail to pay their share for association facilities.


Sometimes there are no properties in a general area not subject to an HOA.

People don't always buy a home with an HOA because they want "facilities"; sometimes they buy a home with an HOA because they have little to no choice.


Even if the current owner doesn't personally use the facilities, like a neighborhood pool, the house is more valuable with the community facilities.

I think a lot of the regulations they tend to want to impose are crap and busy body meddling but gathering funds to maintain community facilities is one of the legitimate reasons for an HOA.


Irrelevant. If you sign a contract then you have to abide by it. You don't get to pick and choose.

Furthermore your claim that there are no alternatives in some general areas is simply false. I defy you to identify a single residential area in the US where there are no non-HOA properties within 50 miles. Sure you might have to pay more or drive further but there are always alternatives.


Not everything specified in a contract is just or legal:

https://bostonfairhousing.org/timeline/1920s1948-Restrictive...

The principle of BATNA can define the more privileged party in a contract:

https://www.pon.harvard.edu/daily/batna/translate-your-batna...


Old racist laws from 1948 are hardly relevant to HOA contracts today. I know what a BATNA is, and those are also totally irrelevant to HOA dues and liens. No one is putting a gun to buyers' heads and forcing them to sign.


The example may be an old one. As such, it's a largely settled matter.

The principle remains.

https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/unenforceable-contra...

You're also simply raising objections to elements I've introduced which you claim prior knowledge of (a fact of which, if I do have privileged access, I'd be well advised to conceal, and more probably, I don't). Which begins to seem tendentious and argument for the sake of arguing.

You could have introduced BATNA to the discussion. You didn't. I did. It is a valid concern and consideration: the HOA need only find another mark^Wbuyer. The buyer needs to find a property not covered by onerous HOA terms.

It's also notable that the Oakland County case doesn't concern HOAs. Though complaints against HOA are certainly justified in many cases.


I have no sympathy for those who turn one-sided adhesion contracts into nigh-ubiquitous property covenants, just to support their petty-authoritarian model.

I have seen far too many petits Napoleons terrorizing their neighbors under an HOA aegis to defend even the HOAs that act honorably to fulfill their original intents. They should all be voided. If you can't "preserve neighborhood character" on voluntary contributions and conduct alone, your HOA doesn't deserve to exist.


HOAs also enforce environmental requirements, legal requirements, etc. These are not voluntary payments and require payments to the HOA. Otherwise what happens it that it gets dumped on the city and everyone's taxes go up, another involuntary payment. There's a subdivision they are attempting to install next to my house by bypassing numerous requirements which are going to make HOA payments sky high. The developer is trying to do everything as cheap as possible and leave the homeowners holding the bill.


Dumping the entire burden of enforcing community conduct on the nominally democratic-republic municipal government is exactly why those governments exist. That's what they're for. City ordinances can be changed if people don't like them, or struck down by the courts if they are outright illegal.

HOAs are all about making little insular villages with none of the actual infrastructure necessary to support one, such as schools and parks and fire trucks and businesses that generate noise and traffic (and money). That is itself cutting corners to make everything as cheap as possible, and leaving the buyers holding the bag. Do you want to be part of the city that actually provides those things, or do you want to be continually subject to nasty letters for having a dandelion in your yard, just because the home building company stuck that clause in there as a marketing gimmick for the bermudagrass-monoculture lawn snobs?


It can get even better than that. HOAs have been known to put homes on the market to resolve a debt.

And even better, they may decide to sell the home for substantially under market price.

Even better, it won't go on the public market, because ever-so-conveniently, one of the HOA board members who voted to accept the under market lowball offers is... the board member who _made_ the lowball offer, to add to his property portfolio.


Yes, but when you pay off what you owe, the lien is lifted. And you agreed to the terms when you bought the property. Not even remotely the same thing as the state taking the property under force and profiting.


> Here in TX, they can place a lien on your house if you don't pay your dues.

It's likely that anyone can place a lien on your house by just filing the appropriate paperwork.


HOA dues pay for the shared parts of your property. Of course they can seize your house if you don't pay for it.

It's when they try to seize your house over nonsense like minor rule infraction that they become awful.


HOAs can't seize anyone's house. They actually have very little power to collect. A lien doesn't mean much until the person goes to sell, and then it just has to be paid prior to a sale.


The last home I had that was part of an HOA, they had the right to evict and rent your home out to recoup any fines and penalties (Illinois). They could also foreclose on the property.


The most I have seen an HOA able to do is foreclose for extreme late payment. By then the bank is typically foreclosing so it's cheaper for the HOA to wait. Plus, the HOA doesn't want foreclosures in the neighborhood as it brings down property values. It's just easier to wait for the homeowner to sell on their own.

An eviction from a property where the HOA is not the owner (typical detached SFH) is not something I have seen. It also wouldn't make a lot of sense because 1 month of rent in my neighborhood would cover years of HOA dues. A shared condo environment is different because what is owned by the owner and the community is more intermingled.


I always found weird how Americans for all their talk about freedom and individuality, subject themselves to live in such suburban communities with so many restrictions and almost no privacy.

Those communities always looked to me as some sort of protestant prison. Where everybody can watch everybody to make sure nobody is committing some sin. Where all the nosey bodies can keep close tabs on you and probably report any deviation for the pastor on Sundays.

For me I want walls, I want to be able to walk naked in my garden if I want, to never ever have to close my curtains just because the jones from the other side of the street can look inside my house.


The article conveniently hides the fact that the owner was a slumlord and the residence that the county seized was not owner-occupied and must have been in very bad shape. If something fetches 25 kUSD at auction when Zillow tells you that equivalent properties nearby go for five time that there's a good reason.

You'd think that especially other slumlords appreciate when a derelict property is seized and disposed of quickly because the traphouse next door really causes a headache. It's the county that implemented the process, someone must have voted for the fast-track process!


Still not a valid reason for seizing an entire property, selling it, and pocketing the profit.

At least threaten the guy with fines if he does not fix things up.


MY favorite is how they rejected a payment on the outstanding taxes.

Most municipalities in Canada are required to accept payment up to, and including the moment the auction begins. If the payment comes in, the property is off the block (in most auctions, the list of properties being auctioned end up being a fraction of the list that was printed the morning of).

Slumlord or not, the municipalities are clearly being malicious in their handling of the appropriations.


Slumlord? Because he owns a property below market value?? $25k was the profit the County made in seizing his home and selling it at below market rate at auction to god knows what friend of the county. This absolutely stinks.


One of the points in the article is that the county auctions aren't getting most of the property value. They're bought by speculators rather than homeowners and are sold for less than half of their assessed value.

He doesn't seem like a slumlord, he says he "completely renovated" the property. (https://www.michigancapitolconfidential.com/oakland-county-t...) And there are 3 other owners mentioned, all of those were working on their properties too.


The aim of county auctions is to get the property into the hands of someone financially healthy, someone who can actually pay for the upkeep of the property. Taxes are usually the last thing you stop paying because you know the county will seize the house, maintenance stops long before that.

I once had the misfortune to rent from a landlord like this. They stopped paying for garbage removal, a few days later the heating broke. That was in a state where code enforcement actually had teeth, in a more tenant-hostile state I'd had had no recourse except moving out at shortest notice. Thankfully the roof held tight all the time I was there, there would have been no money for that kind of repairs.

That landowner actually did "renovate" the property somewhat, they did tart up the kitchen a bit but did nothing about the sewage leak in the downstairs bathroom.

No one should have patience for bankruptcy artists who go crying about "violence inherent to the system" when they can't make it, if they overextend themselves they need to go through the bankruptcy process. That's why you have interest as a risk premium. Too bad the fellow missed out in the gentrification windfall.


Try reading how he got that $8(EIGHT DOLLAR KARL!) tax bill! Nowhere does it mention that he stopped paying taxes.

You damn bootlickers just need to stop deepthroating the damn boot.


The timeline for foreclosure is right there in the article. The county can foreclose after 2 years and 1 month after the debt goes to collection. There even was a hearing to show cause, after which the owner still had two months to pay up, but they didn't do it.

The fellow made a deliberate choice to hand the property back to the county, and he was probably glad to do so and get out of the rental business.


Do you have citations backing that up?

It's not unusual in my experience to see tax sales go for below fair market value.


Reference on the slumlord claim?

(A brief DDG search shows no relevant results.)

And as noted by others: the fact alone would not justify confiscation of property or denial of due process. This despite my many misgivings of Reason as a generally credible narrator.


You missed something in the article. He bought a property in a depressed area. The property rose in value to where it's now over $125000. The city foreclosed on the house and sold for $25k and kept the profits above $8.41 of back taxes owed.


almost like the bill of rights was set up to force us to skip these character judgements


The currently linked article is incredibly inciteful, which is to be expected of Reason whenever they cover tax and property issues.

Another way to state one of the facts in this case is that the state seized the property of an owner who was delinquent on his tax bill for over 5 years and well aware of it. Once it's the state's property I don't see why they should pay the "profits" back to him or any other prior owner. At that point, the state and the collective taxpayers are already the owners and the money enters the collective fund.

By giving away the profit to a previous owner, the argument presented is effectively that the State should be a taxpayer-funded seller's agent that works exclusively in the property owner's favor rather than working in favor of the taxpayers who actually pay their fair share.


I get the problem you are describing, but they don't have to do it for free. I think it would be perfectly reasonable to have penalties / accumulating interest for late payment, and to sell the house if the total amount owed approaches a large % of the property value (and to charge an additional fee for selling the house).

I think what people are objecting to here is confiscating the house over a tiny tax liability, selling the house for 1000x the tax liability, and pocketing the difference. For example, having a tax liability of $8, confiscating the house and selling it for $24000, then pocketing $23992 over the $8 tax liability.

There's already a perfectly adequate way to address late property tax payments, charging interest. Either they pay and the city gets their money back (with interest), or they don't and the balance is eventually big enough to justify selling the property (so they get their money back with interest). It may be more lucrative for the city to confiscate the house immediately and make a 300000% profit on an $8 balance but it's hard to see how that's reasonable (and it seems like it will have to meet the "reasonable" threshold in order to be constitutional).


They did charge interest and didn't confiscate it immediately. The thing is, the tax liability was actually about $500, it was owed in 2011, and it was still owed in 2012, at some point the owner entered a payment plan for a few years, and still owed money on the same bill after the plan. Regardless of the amount, at some point enough is enough and the state should act.

The process where the department is obligated to return the positive delta to the previous owner after an auction is a self-bankrupting process. It starves the department of funds and leads to higher taxes to fund it while people are willing. It's classic libertarian starve-the-beast mentality to destroying public isntitutions. The department would have no incentive to sell for above market+interest prices and would burn through its budget on those properties not mentioned by Reason that are sold at a loss.


I still don't understand why the state needs to act (by confiscating the house) regardless of the amount. As long as it gets its money plus interest, what is the harm to the state by waiting? Sure, there will be a delay in payment, but if the interest rate is high enough that would be a benefit, for the same reason that it's better for credit card companies if the balance isn't paid off right away.

I really don't see the problem with waiting. Either it's paid off with interest and the state is made whole, or they don't pay and they sell the house once it becomes a reasonable amount (and the balance is paid off with interest). Either way the state gets its money (plus interest).

I'm not against raising revenue, but I don't think all ways of raising revenue are automatically good. For example you could also raise revenue by taking someones car if they don't have a current sticker on or get a parking ticket. Taking homes like this confiscates an almost random amount from people with no consideration of their means or the amount other people are paying. You could be confiscating most of the savings of a middle class couple near retirement for example, and by doing so make them contribute 100x what their wealthy neighbor does to government revenues.

If there is no problem with collecting in a way where everyone pays the same and the state is reimbursed for any additional costs, they should do that. If they need more revenue, they should raise property tax, not play games where a few people pay 1000x more because a mail didn't reach them (and if you read the article, it seems like some counties were deliberately doing the absolute minimum notifying people so they could hit the jackpot).


Did you mean "insightful" as in "has a lot of insight", or "inciteful" as in "likely to incite" or "provocative"? (I ask because "inciteful" isn't properly a word but it makes an interesting "mondegreen" in context.)

edit: Excuse me! OED recognizes "inciteful" as a word. Sorry. https://www.grammarphobia.com/blog/2010/12/inciteful.html


I actually wondered this as well before I used the word :). Although before reading your link, I didn't realize it was as rare of a usage as it is.


When you have to pay fees to be able to hold on to your property, it's not your property. You're paying the government mafia for the privilege to hold on to what they view as their property. It is extortion and ultimately robbery as in this case.


Recognizing that it sounds bad is easy. Figuring out something that would actually be better in the long run for society is hard.

Any takers?

(Also, the "profit" part is a red herring. There's no way the county could have done all of this for less than the proceeds of the sale.)


For starters there's already the concept of garnishing wages, income and tax returns the city could easily use those for cases like this. Sure there will be some cases where an action like this is reasonable but just sending notifications through the mail isn't enough they should have to use more active services like those for serving court documents where it can be validated that the owner received notification of the action, or at least a more rigorous effort was put in than just sending a letter.


I've never liked this kind of hand-wavy reasoning on any topic, its unreasonably dismissive and to me always seems externally motivated in one way or another. "The situation is slightly more than mildly complex, therefore, you shouldn't be complaining or calling it 'wrong' if you don't have a complete near-zero-cost solution in your hands right now!" This, besides just being unreasonable, also seems to just willingly forget that figuring out the 'better system' is not our job, it completely ignores the fact that that is quite literally the supposed job of the actual serving politicians that we elected.


> Recognizing that it sounds bad is easy. Figuring out something that would actually be better in the long run for society is hard.

Per the article, this is only possible in Michigan, and only because of a specific, misguided law passed in 1999.

It's a solved problem.


I'm gonna play devil's advocate and say this is actually not a bad thing.

> In each case, the property owners alleged that they were not given sufficient warning about their delinquent taxes. In some cases, that's because county officials were mailing notices to unfinished homes or properties without permanent residents. In others, like Rafaeli's case, the notices were delivered to tenants who failed to pass along the information to their landlord, mistakenly believing that the county would inform the landlord separately.

They were warned. If you ignore the warnings, what else is the county supposed to do? If there's no punishment for not paying taxes, nobody would pay taxes. Seizing assets is better then putting someone in jail, because it actually makes taxpayers money and it hurts the people not paying in a fair way.

If you don't live at a house enough to check the mail and you aren't paying property taxes on it, then it's actually good for society to give that house to someone who needs it and will pay taxes on it. This type of thing can reduce homelessness.

Finally landlords have no excuse for this, they're making money off these properties, it's similar to not using them. If you're gonna be making a profit off of collecting rent I think the least to ask is for you to properly pay your taxes.


> "They were warned. If you ignore the warnings, what else is the county supposed to do?"

But what you quoted:

> "In some cases, that's because county officials were mailing notices to unfinished homes or properties without permanent residents. In others, like Rafaeli's case, the notices were delivered to tenants who failed to pass along the information to their landlord, mistakenly believing that the county would inform the landlord separately."

It appears there are many cases where nothing was ignored. Notification wasn't received.

And that's without considering the perverse incentive where it's in the county's best interest to "accidentally" send notices to the wrong address.


I own property. It's my responsibility to inform the county about where they should mail my tax bills.

> in the county's best interest to "accidentally" send notices to the wrong address.

Yeah, that's a nice way to end up in federal prison and the county to be on the hook to pay everyone back.

PS - According to the article, the house was seized in 2014 for a delinquency on the 2011 taxes. It wasn't something that happened after a single missed notice.


Notification wasn't received.

Come on, the owner knows that there is a property tax bill every year, and if they don't receive it on time they should get worried. Everyone knows when their credit card bill should show up and promptly pays even when the post office lost it.


If you have a mortgage, the mortgage company usually rolls property taxes into your mortgage payment. So a homeowner may not receive a separate property tax bill for 30 years.


Not all of them. I’ve been stung for penal payments when I called up to see where the bill had got to. It had passed 30 days since issued and therefore interest was due. I’d be pretty unhappy if the house got taken over that.


If it goes to the right property, and you still don't pay, you aren't using the property enough to be allowed to have it, IMO. That's what I'm saying. If you're only at that house every couple of years, why shouldn't the county take it and sell it to someone who will actually use it?

This all depends on how much of a warning you get and such. Obviously if you only get a month's warning or something that would be bad, but if you're warned a year or two in advance I see no problem with this.

Set up a system were you can go to court to challenge it. In cases where notices were sent to the wrong address or you simply forgot interest you should be able to overturn this, sure.


> If it goes to the right property, and you still don't pay, you aren't using the property enough to be allowed to have it, IMO. > If you're only at that house every couple of years, why shouldn't the county take it and sell it to someone who will actually use it?

That's not how property ownership works in America.


That's exactly how property ownership works in America. Cf. adverse possession, in which a landowner who doesn't visit the property often enough to notice someone openly and notoriously using it without permission loses the right to do anything about it and it becomes the new person's property.

(However, in Michigan, the term required to acquire title by adverse possession is 15 years.)


"It looks like the money in your savings account/investments in your investment account haven't been touched in a few years. We're taking it and giving it to someone who will use it."


Less than $10 from miscalculating interest owed and the subsequent bills do not show any outstanding balance?

That's atrocious. They seize the property and keep the entire proceeds of the auction. That's outlandish. It goes on to say in the article that the properties often go on to speculators who rent them or leave them empty.


Fair enough, that's a case of were it messed up because the guy was trying to pay his taxes and made an honest mistake.

But I don't think the whole law is bad because of a couple of mistakes. There should probably be a system to stop seizures from happening over honest mistakes, but the law itself seems like a good idea. We don't get rid of murder laws because sometimes we convict the wrong people, for example.


If you owe 1,000 USD is there ever a situation where you should forfeit an asset, have it liquidated, and then regain none of the proceeds over what you owe? It says in the article they found that they were received over 40 USD for every 1 USD owed in taxes. It's not a couple of mistakes. It's blatantly doing the bare minimum to ensure that you can pad a budget deficit via forfeiture.

Sure, if someone has an asset that they aren't paying taxes on you can put a lien against it or maybe even take it in forfeiture. You absolutely can't keep the entirety of the proceeds from a sale above what's owed and maybe the funds for running an auction.

In the end I think they have a fair legal case for recourse. There's no criminal violation and a civil violation isn't enough for complete asset forfeiture.


Yes it is. The law is bad, because it allows officials to increase their own income, by taking someone's property.

That's the case with asset forfeiture(there have been many cases where police have literally used that legal tool to have a better salary), fines on poor people(reason literally covered a case about it today) and other methods.

I say this from experience - American police are all shitbags working to enforce the law, not to "Serve and Protect". That Serve and Protect dissipates really fast, when you're mugged... and materializes really fast when a citation is possible.


So given the conversations on record and quoted in the article about certain treasurers deliberately doing the least effective actions and anticipating the "legal" right to claim a property, you're still going to claim that the system is a net positive?

I'll bet you make weekly non-trivial transactions in every financial account you don't want seized - "well, you obviously weren't actively using these funds, so they've been collected and the county will make better use of them."

It's legalized piracy is what it is.


It would be a lessor ill for the county to forgive the 8 dollars or add it to the next years tax bill.

The government shouldn't be in the business of maximizing profit at the expense of the well being of the people.

There is not one correct thing in your entire post.

We have no proof that said notice was actually received. When you take legal action even as a private citizen the onus is on YOU to ensure communication is received not on them to ensure they received it. If you are going to take a property worth 10s of thousands you can spend a few dollars paying someone to serve a notice.

You may correctly discern that nobody that had actually been thus notified would fail to pay the $8 and thus such service would certainly result in a financial loss. Tack the cost of said service onto the bill or just take the $8 onto the next years bill.

You incorrectly claim that their is either anarchy where nobody pays their taxes or a punitive dystopia where 83 year olds lose their properties over Less than the cost of a value meal at McDonald's and exclude the entire middle ground where virtually all sane governments reside.

A dullard could design a functional middle ground and if you look at the array of imbeciles that work in local government they in fact largely have all over America. A few thoughts from yours truly.

- Require onerous process prior to actually taking a house to ensure that all takings are a result of actual decisions not to pay rather than mischance. Example paying people to actually serve notice to the person and prove receipt or that such service is impossible in extreme cases where someone is missing or impossible to contact. You can reasonably charge someone for this service.

- A fine for nonpayment

- Minimum principal due before you can take a property to ensure that no matter of 8 dollars results in a house being taken. This ensures that you can't simply keep piling on fines until it reaches the minimum.

- A lien on the value of the house for the money due when the property is sold or transferred so that the government gets paid its due.

- A policy of forgiving small discrepancies or miscalculations say under 10 bucks to ensure more money isn't spent on collection than is worthwhile.

The government could affect a net decrease in homelessness by literally taking away properties from wealthy people who own multiples and giving them to the poor. In fact any action that takes away from some and gives to the other makes someone better off. That being the general case doesn't make the specific case of this old fellow losing his house to a predatory system better or said system reasonable.


- Or take something of the similar value from the property. A toaster or whatever and auction that off.


For some reason I find the idea of the tax man hauling off the toaster hilarious.

I either picture a very serious fbi man hauling off the thing while a Norman Rockwellesque families breakfast toast is still sticking out of it or Michael Keaton as Beatlejuice saying we've come for your toaster chuck instead of daughter.


That was more like the devil's clown.


Your comment is so heavily downvoted I literally can't read it. Never seen that before


Because its poorly thought out. Also you can click on an individual comment and it will be perfectly readable


Ahhh! I appreciate the tip. Still getting used to the UI


Sell the property at auction, but use the proceeds to pay the tax debt and a fine large enough to cover the cost to the county of administrating the sale. Then send the remainder back to the owner.

This solves the problem without creating (too large of) a perverse incentive for the county government.


Send it to who? This was an absentee landlord in a low-rent property.

This is a very aggressive law, but there are reasons that the law is written this way. Drawn-out processes to seize property tend to lead to higher levels of vacancy and destruction of the property.

Local governments often don't know who the beneficial owner of a property is, especially with low-end rentals. I used to consult to a local utility. Probably 30% of the properties were owned by LLCs where the owner was unknown. At least a half dozen had bills sent to people known to be dead. In this case you're looking at a landlord in his 80s who doesn't get mail regarding his rental property sent to his home. It sucks, but once there's a lien on the property you're SOL as a property owner.


If the property is legitimately owned, the title is registered with the land registry office. These are public records and the county definitely has access to them.

> It sucks, but once there's a lien on the property you're SOL as a property owner.

That implies that any home with a mortgage means you're SOL. Does this mean ownership is dead? The US has a mix of title-theory and lien-theory states. In lien-theory states, a mortgage counts as a lien on the home. Michigan, in particular, is an intermediary state, in which case the mortgage does have some component of a lien. It gets complicated since each state has it's own rules.


Since you have some experience with this why not just put a lien on the property for the taxes owed (along with interest & penalties)? As long it's a small percentage of the property value the city would be almost guaranteed to be made whole eventually (by selling the home when the tax debt reaches a threshold % of the property value).

I understand why they might want to have a different process for vacant/unmaintained properties, but in the article it looks like this is happening to occupied properties in good condition (or even actively under construction)!

I also don't understand why it's appropriate to keep the whole house value after auction, even when it's 100x (or in some examples in the article 1000x) the taxes owed and the owner is known.

There's other stuff in the article where it seems like the local governments deliberately want to avoid the owner discovering their tax liability. For example they make the current year's tax bill not mention any existing tax debt (which may be from a different owner). In one example the county treasurer calls the owner of a new home under construction only *after" the deadline, just to tell them that they've been waiting out the clock on the tax debt of a previous owner, and they plan to seize the house and refuse any payment on the balance!

I don't see the public interest in this aside from trying to turn communication issues into huge financial windfalls for local governments (due to asset confiscation), with the perverse incentive that the party responsible for notifying people gets the windfall if that process fails.


If they can only gain very little to nothing (covering the costs as you say), they'd have very little incentive to try to get it sold for a reasonable price.

The former owner would most probably get ripped off, a lot.


> It was sold for $24,500 [...] estimates the property is worth $128,000




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