City to exempt thousands of properties set for tax sale

Bryan P. Sears//May 3, 2021

City to exempt thousands of properties set for tax sale

By Bryan P. Sears

//May 3, 2021

"This marks a historic shift in Baltimore's thinking around the tax sale and is only the first step," says Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott.(Submitted Photo)
“This marks a historic shift in Baltimore’s thinking around the tax sale and is only the first step,” says Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott.(Submitted Photo)

Some city residents whose homes were scheduled to go on the tax auction block later this month will instead get a reprieve.

The exemption is an initial step to protect more than 2,000 homeowners from losing their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott. The announcement comes as the city’s May 17 sale loomed and advocates pressured the mayor to take action.

“This marks a historic shift in Baltimore’s thinking around the tax sale and is only the first step” in his administration’s policy overhaul on tax sales, said the mayor, who added that the effort is also about equity.

“Home ownership is one of the most important factors when it comes to building generational wealth for our Black and brown communities and our low-income households in Baltimore City,” said Scott.

As part of that initial step, owner-occupied homes scheduled to go to auction for unpaid tax liens are now exempted as are those properties that have not appeared on the list for at least four years, according to Baltimore City Finance Director Henry Raymond.

A spokeswoman for the mayor said Monday’s announcement could affect as many as 2,500 people  — about 41% of the properties — and would have generated between $6 million and $9 million. The final number of homeowners is expected to be lower as some have paid off the debts that triggered the lien.

“We know that the past year has been a challenging year for our residents,” said Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby. “We also know that draconian policies, outdated policies and sometimes predatory policies such as tax sales disproportionately impact our most vulnerable residents here in the city of Baltimore.”

The city will also monitor the sale and be available to assist affected owners before and after the sale with three full-time employees, said Scott.

“Today’s announcement is about being targeted and strategic in our approach to protect our legacy homeowners,” said Scott. “This is also about taking the action we can take now, not just simply kicking the can down the road while also working to address the underlying issues in this process to keep our most vulnerable residents housed.”

Additional protections that were part of a law sponsored by Councilwoman Lisa McCray and passed in 2020 are expected to take effect in July . That law will affect senior citizens, people receiving disability payments and households with a combined income of less than $40,000 annually

“I remain committed to further reforms of this system,” said Scott. “My administration will also pursue local and state policy changes that will give the city more local control of the tax sale process.”

Each year the city holds a tax lien auction to collect past due property tax or other charges in excess of $750. Purchasers of the liens can, under state law, collect the debt. Unpaid debts could eventually result in foreclosures.


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