BALTIMORE — We’re quickly approaching a critical deadline in Baltimore City.
Hundreds of Baltimoreans are facing a financial hole that could lead to more vacant homes.
In Baltimore City, if you have more than $750 in property taxes— the home can be placed in a tax sale.
For someone to get their home back they pay what they owed plus an interest which can be between 6 and 18%.
Nneka Nnamdi of Fight Blight Bmore says one of the big factors is the annual tax sale said these practices are a big factor in the blight we see in our communities.
“There have always been serious economic problems in these communities,” said Nnamdi. “When you add the ability of a municipality to sell the debt to a 3rd party and the 3rd party can charge penalties and interest. It takes a $1,000 debt today and makes it $3,300 next year.”
Last year the tax sale was delayed a month, but still happened despite the pandemic.
Now, this group calling on the Mayors Office to delay the sale and exclude property tax sales where the owner lives in the home.
The goal is to avoid eventual foreclosures.
“We’ve seen properties that are classified as commercial properties which is going to inflate your tax bill,” said Nnamdi. “We’ve seen payments be misapplied or not applied at all to peoples accounts resulting in them being on tax list. We’ve seen unapplied property tax credits, elders being in the hospital or just forgetting because of all this going on.”
Nnamdi is working alongside John Kern of Maryland Volunteer Lawyer Service to create the Stop Oppressive Seizures fund.
They’re Calling for donations to help people avoid landing on the tax sale list.
Kern represents people who are in a tax sale and end up in a tax sale foreclosure.
He said a lot of the times homes are not properly titled.
That means if they pass away and the house isn’t re-titled you get a tangled title.
At that point the person is paying the property taxes but they don’t have access to state property tax credit programs.
“We have to open up the estate of the people that have passed away and re-title the house in their name,” Kern said. “We’re doing all that legal work yet to get them back to square one and that doesn’t even address the issue of them being behind on the property taxes in the first place.”
When people feel like they’ve exhausted their options and don’t have the money or places to go—they walk away from the property.
“Those lien purchasers do not re-title that property, so it stays in legal limbo,” Kern said. “They don’t actually want the property they want the 12-18% that Nneka is talking about. They’ll never re-title that property and now it’s floating in this tangled state acquiring liens after liens and eventually the liens are so high and there no value on the property and you get another vacant another zombie property.”
The Mayor could extend this tax sale but hasn’t announced plans to do so as of yet.
The deadline to get your property taxes below $750 is April 30th.
In the meantime if you want to donate to the Stop Oppressive Seizures Fund click here.