By Stacy M. Brown
On May 16, thousands of Baltimore City homeowners are in danger of having their unpaid bills sold to outside entities.
Such a sale could jeopardize properties – and, in some cases, result in the loss of a home or other property.
Liens are placed on the owner-occupied property and made eligible for tax sale if the total of its unpaid city bills is $750 or more.
The liens include unpaid real property taxes, special benefits assessments, alley and footway paving bills, streetscape, minor privilege, multi-family dwelling, clean and board, environmental control citations, and residential registration charges.
“During the first week of March, the city of Baltimore mailed notices to the owners of over 4,500 properties, informing them that their properties will be included in the city’s annual tax lien certificate sale if the outstanding bills are not paid by April 29,” said Claudia Wilson-Randall, the executive director of the Community Development Network of Maryland.
“Taxpayers have until April 29 to pay or get their balances under $750. The average owed is $2000 to $3000. So mainly senior homeowners can lose their homes over a small amount of money,” Wilson-Randall stated.
However, resources are available, including the Tax Sale Help Baltimore online tool, which assists homeowners in navigating the complicated tax sale process.
Wilson-Randall, who enjoys a long history in community development in the state, noted that residents could get resources and information about preventing a tax sale by answering a few simple questions.
A former director of Housing Counseling & Operations for Southeast Community Development Corporation and one-time deputy director of the Maryland Center for Community Development, Wilson-Randall, has worked on foreclosure prevention issues.
In an email, she explained how the tax sale works.
“It’s a way for the government to privatize collection of real property taxes and liens,” she noted. If a purchaser successfully bids on tax liens, that individual receives a tax lien certificate and the ability to collect unpaid taxes and fees.
Failure to pay taxes, interest, and fees could lead to the purchaser filing a tax sale foreclosure in Circuit Court and assuming property ownership.
Wilson-Randall noted that taxes include property taxes, assessments, citations, and any other charges and liens on the property under Maryland law.
Homeowners facing tax lien sales are urged to call the Pro Bone Resource Center of Maryland for free legal help and advice. The agency holds free tax lien clinics and can be reached at 443-703-3052 or www.probono.org.
Wilson-Randall also noted in the email that other assistance remains available, including the Homeowners Property Tax Credit.
This yearly tax credit could add as much as $1,000 primarily to the pockets of senior homeowners.
For more information, visit www.MarylandTaxCredit.com, or call the Maryland Tax Credit Hotline at 443-961-6220.
Residents can also reach out to the Homeowner Assistance Fund from the State of Maryland or www.taxsalehelpbaltimore.org.
“Liens on these properties will be sold during the May 16 city-run tax sale, opening the door for investors to foreclose on the properties, wiping out accumulated wealth and disrupting Black neighborhoods and generational wealth,” Wilson-Randall stated. “It’s time for Mayor Brandon Scott to cancel or delay the tax sale.”