Saturday, August 01, 2015

Detroit-Area Class Actions Target Two County Treasurers Over Allegations Of Improper Foreclosures For Unpaid Real Estate Taxes; Homeowners Say Faulty Process Results In Property Forfeitures Without Just Compensation

In Detroit, Michigan, The Detroit News reports:
  • Thousands of properties in Oakland and Wayne counties have been taken improperly in tax delinquency foreclosures, reaping millions of dollars for government coffers at the expense of cash-strapped property owners, according to class-action lawsuits filed this month in both counties.

    The complaints allege treasurers in both counties have seized properties without providing the former owners with due process, equal protection and just compensation.

    In some instances, owners claim they were never notified before their property was auctioned, often for tens of thousands of dollars below market value.

    The treasurers in both counties, however, insist taxpayers are contacted multiple times over tax delinquencies, given an opportunity to be heard and offered payment plans.

    Andre Ohanessian says he was informed by a neighbor that a 2.7-acre lot he owned in Orchard Lake Village had been sold at auction last year to cover $6,000 in alleged tax delinquencies from 2011 to 2013. In an interview, he said he was never notified his taxes were overdue.

    The property, off a private road and nature trail in a wooded neighborhood of $1 million homes, netted $82,000. It’s listed for sale at $349,000.

    “I learned of the auction sale by a phone call from an Orchard Lake neighbor,” said Ohanessian, 67, a jewelry wholesaler who now lives in Sunland, California. “He called, ‘Did you know they auctioned off your property?’ I was shocked. I had notified the treasurer’s office that I had moved from Michigan.”

    The complaints say Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner and Wayne County Treasurer Raymond Wojtowicz don’t give delinquent taxpayers the chance to argue why their properties should not be taken. Instead, both have conducted informal, nonjudicial “show cause hearings,” the suits allege.

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