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Tax Sale

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By Jamie Smith Hopkins, The Baltimore Sun | August 2, 2010
Tim Nickels' rowhouse in Baltimore went to tax sale over less than $4 in unpaid property taxes and hundreds of dollars in citations for a messy yard. Perfectly legal, under the city's rules. But Nickels was flabbergasted. Baltimore's annual tax sale, an effort by the city to collect on delinquent accounts, has drawn criticism for putting residents at risk of losing their homes over municipal bills as small as $250. Nickels' past-due tab of $955.60 — including the citation fines and late fees — was one of 6,421 unpaid city bills recently sold as liens to investors, who can move to foreclose later this year if the owners don't pay up with interest.
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NEWS
By Larry Perl, lperl@tribune.com | September 8, 2014
A run-down uninhabited house at 506 Locksley Road that has been the subject of complaints for the last two years from West Towson neighbors has been sold, County Councilman Marks said. "We're happy to get this resolved," said Marks, who represents Towson. "It's been an eyesore. The county worked very, very hard on this. " Marks said the winning bidder was a builder with plans to raze the structure. The auction company, A.J. Billig & Co., confirmed the sale but would not identify the buyer.
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NEWS
By June Arney and June Arney,Sun reporter | February 12, 2008
In an effort to spare some homeowners the loss of their properties in municipal tax sales, lawmakers are proposing several reform measures. State Sen. George W. Della Jr. has introduced legislation to cap legal fees at the end of the court process and to improve notification. The Baltimore Democrat says he hopes to cut expenses and save homes. Legal costs in these lawsuits have soared in recent years, making it harder for homeowners to regain the rights to their properties by paying back taxes and accumulated fees.
NEWS
By Robin Jacobs | July 9, 2014
Baltimore City auctioned off more than $20 million worth of tax, water and other liens this spring in an online auction. These liens are tied to almost 7,000 properties, assessed at a total of more than $720 million. But while the tax sale system provides local government with badly-needed funds up front, it short-changes our communities. The complexities of the tax sale system mean that only those with sophistication and wealth can bid (this year's top four bidders in Baltimore City bought nearly 60 percent of the certificates)
NEWS
By Jay A. Dackman | January 30, 2008
In 2003, the Maryland General Assembly changed the laws regarding attorney's fees charged in tax-sale foreclosure cases. The previous standard, a maximum of $400 under any circumstances, was changed to a "reasonable attorney fee" standard as long as a lawsuit has been filed. This was an attempt to compensate attorneys for their time and expertise in matters that were both tedious and technical, and whose time was worth more than the $400 cap that had been in place since 1985. Before the change, there were about 500 tax-sale lawsuits in Baltimore annually.
BUSINESS
By Jamie Smith Hopkins, The Baltimore Sun | May 21, 2012
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.
NEWS
March 25, 2012
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young came to an important accomodation Friday in their standoff about tax sales over unpaid water bills. The mayor was probably right that the two-year moratorium on tax sales Mr. Young had proposed endangered the city's bond rating, but Mr. Young was right to stand firm on the principle that no one should risk losing a home based on an estimated water bill. Now the mayor has agreed to send to tax sale only properties for which the unpaid bills are based on acutal meter readings, and that is progress.
NEWS
By Robin Jacobs | July 9, 2014
Baltimore City auctioned off more than $20 million worth of tax, water and other liens this spring in an online auction. These liens are tied to almost 7,000 properties, assessed at a total of more than $720 million. But while the tax sale system provides local government with badly-needed funds up front, it short-changes our communities. The complexities of the tax sale system mean that only those with sophistication and wealth can bid (this year's top four bidders in Baltimore City bought nearly 60 percent of the certificates)
NEWS
April 2, 2012
Whether estimated, misread, misrecorded, or just plain mistaken, no erroneous water bill should send any properties to tax sale ("Tax sale timeout," March 25). In its City Council testimony of March 21, the Public Works and Finance departments pledged to investigate all 2,300 pending tax sales occasioned by water bill liens and to provide documentation of their property-by-property findings of accuracy or error before the April 30 tax sale deadline. Based on these findings, fairness dictates that all categories of questionable water liens must exempt properties from being sold to May 2012 tax sale investors.
BUSINESS
Jamie Smith Hopkins | May 22, 2012
Nearly 27,000 city properties in March were in danger of going to tax sale, but ultimately about 10,600 had liens included in the auction Monday. Investors bought 6,545 of the lien certificates , which raised $20 million for the city, according to the Finance Department. It's not unusual for property owners to pay up in April, just before the annual spring tax sale. But one of the narrowest misses this year was a case in which the homeowner paid last month -- after she learned that the state had retroactively reduced a tax credit on her property -- and the city lost the check.
BUSINESS
By Natalie Sherman, The Baltimore Sun | May 5, 2014
The city will conduct its annual tax sale this month in an effort to boost tax rolls, but some critics say it's a quick fix that contributes to one of Baltimore's most entrenched problems - vacant properties. City officials scheduled about 10,000 tax liens to go to auction this year. That's a small fraction of the 240,000 properties that owed money on property taxes or other city bills as of July 1, and less than half of the roughly 23,800 listed in advertisements in March. Those properties represented about $125 million in unpaid bills.
NEWS
By Erin Cox, The Baltimore Sun | January 16, 2014
Advocates of legalizing marijuana launched their effort Thursday to change the law in Maryland, calling the war on drugs a failure and pointing to growing public support for their cause. A handful of Maryland lawmakers hope to push the state in the direction of Colorado, where recreational use of pot is regulated and taxed like alcohol. Advocates say that would generate about $150 million in tax dollars for Maryland each year. Supporters compared the changing public attitude toward legalizing marijuana to the more recent embrace of same-sex marriage and the rejection of Prohibition policies more than 80 years ago. "Continuation of the current policy is continuation of failure," said state Sen. Jamie Raskin, a constitutional law professor at American University and a lead sponsor of the legalization effort.
NEWS
July 26, 2013
Outrage doesn't begin to describe my reaction to the recent revelations over Baltimore's failure to collect taxes that were due from commercial property owners ( "City says it can't rebill," July 25) Hats off to reporters Luke Broadwater and Scott Calvert for exposing the inequity and hypocrisy of city collection processes and the city regulations that only benefit a few at the expense of the many. On behalf of the tens of thousands of Baltimore City homeowners whose life-long residences have gone to tax sale over unpaid water bills, I ask where was the Bureau of Collection's fairness meter?
NEWS
By Peter Morici | May 15, 2013
The U.S. Senate recently passed a bill that would allow states to require Internet retailers to collect sales taxes on behalf of local governments. This bill has flaws, but they could be fixed in the House. It should be passed. I don't like the idea of the state and local governments collecting more taxes - they know no limits to their capacity to tax and squander our hard-earned dollars - but the current situation is unfair and bad economic policy. (Also, Marylanders stand to gain from this legislation in another way, because of a state law that will reduce future increases in gasoline taxes if taxing Internet sales is allowed.)
NEWS
By Cal Thomas | May 11, 2013
In 1998, when President Bill Clinton signed the bipartisan Internet Tax Freedom Act, which prohibited state and local taxation of Internet access and Internet-only services, the purpose was to promote the commercial potential of the Internet, especially for start-ups and small businesses. Congress extended the bill three times, the latest until 2014. Now there's the Marketplace Fairness Act, which, writes The Washington Post, "would allow states and local governments to require large Internet retailers and other 'remote sellers' with sales over $1 million annually to collect sales taxes and send the revenue to the appropriate location.
BUSINESS
By Steve Kilar, The Baltimore Sun | April 30, 2013
Six Baltimore community groups filed an $8 million lawsuit Tuesday against a Texas man whose companies own dozens of properties in the city, alleging that he failed to improve rundown homes after purchasing them at tax sales and allowed them to become a danger. "The lawsuit challenges the practice of purchasing vacant properties at tax sale and leaving them for dead with unaddressed city code violations," said Kristine Dunkerton, executive director of the Community Law Center Inc., a nonprofit based in Baltimore that represents the community associations.
BUSINESS
Jamie Smith Hopkins | March 16, 2012
Haven't paid your city property taxes? Then you're on the city's list of owners whose properties could end up in tax sale this May, along with nearly 27,000 others who (as of last week) were behind on taxes, water bills or other city tabs. That's more than 10 percent of city properties, located in neighborhoods as varied as Poppleton and the Inner Harbor . If previous years are any judge, many owners will pay up quickly and avoid tax sale altogether. Here's an interactive map that shows where all the properties are. You can click on the dots for more details, including the address, who owns and how much the city says they owe. (Keep in mind that some may have paid already -- and at least one is an error .)
NEWS
By Luke Broadwater, The Baltimore Sun | March 23, 2012
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake agreed Friday to temporarily stop seizing homes over unpaid water bills in cases where the bills were estimated, a practice that city officials say led to widespread inaccuracies. The move is a compromise between Rawlings-Blake and Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young, who had sought a comprehensive moratorium on home seizures over water bills after an audit showed serious problems with the accuracy of the city's bills. Rawlings-Blake and Young announced the deal Friday.
BUSINESS
Jamie Smith Hopkins | September 14, 2012
If you're sure your property is worth less than the state says it is, you might want to contest it. This heads up is brought to you by RG Steel, which struck a deal -- after several years of appeals -- that reduces its taxes on the Sparrows Point steel mill by about $830,000. Odds are, you're not in a position to save quite that much. But it's a helpful reminder nonetheless. A rundown of the Sparrows Point situation , in case you're curious: RG Steel filed for bankruptcy in May, so cash-strapped that it estimated it had more than 1,000 creditors -- Baltimore County among them.
NEWS
By Alison Knezevich, The Baltimore Sun | August 13, 2012
At the Oakleigh Pet Cemetery in Parkville, Bobby the Wonder Monkey's tombstone is hidden in ivy. Weeds surround the grave of Monsetta, remembered as "Our only girl. " And on Snookie's stone marker, the epitaph "Until the end our faithful pal" is barely visible behind the brush. The owner of the 2.5-acre cemetery near Loch Raven Boulevard says he is trying to clean up, but he has racked up nearly $30,000 in unpaid county fines and fees for persistent problems such as overgrown vegetation, junk scattered on the grounds and broken windows.
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