Sunday, May 27, 2012

11th Hour Phone Call To Baltimore Councilman Helps Homeowner Dodge Foreclosure After City Loses Another Check For Real Estate Tax Payment

In Baltimore, Maryland, The Baltimore Sun reports:

  • Kristina Suson's home wasn't part of the city's tax sale Monday, but it was a close call.

  • Baltimore places liens on properties for unpaid property taxes, water bills and other municipal debts, then puts the liens up for auction every spring — allowing investors to buy them and either collect or move to foreclose. The city auctioned liens on about 10,600 properties on Monday, finding buyers for 6,545 of them and raising $20 million.

  • Suson ended up on this year's list, to her surprise, after the state retroactively reduced a property tax credit she'd received in 2009. Her mortgage servicer sent a check for the $2,100 tab in late April, but the Finance Department still hadn't processed it as the auction date neared. That's because the city lost the check. But no one told Suson that.

  • "When I would call and ask, they'd say, 'It takes two weeks, it'll be processed in two weeks, don't worry about it,'" said Suson, a pediatric urology fellow. Her Patterson Park home was taken off the tax-sale list Thursday after she contacted City Councilman James B. Kraft's office to plead for help.

  • Janice J. Simmons, chief of the Finance Department's Bureau of Revenue Collections, said in an email that the office's FedEx tracking list shows the check was received, but "it is lost internally." Staffers taking calls about tax-sale payments had no way of knowing, she said, which is why they kept telling Suson that it would eventually be processed.

  • "The check was misplaced between departments after being logged in," Simmons said. "We are revising our internal protocol to ensure that checks remain in the original tracking envelope and that each department that handles the check has to sign for the check."
  • [City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke has] received a lot of frantic calls over the years from homeowners in a fix, occasionally because the city didn't properly account for their payments. "Things get lost in the shuffle," Clarke said.
For more, see Baltimore homeowner almost ends up in tax sale after city loses check (Home removed just in time from city auction of tax liens on 10,600 properties).

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