Thursday, May 12, 2016

Elderly, Disabled Fort Worth Couple Dodge Bullet When Home Was Inadvertently Foreclosed Out From Under Them For Unpaid Real Estate Taxes When They Failed To Return Texas Homestead Tax Deferral Affidavit; County Officials Work Out Redemption w/ Winning Bidder To Recover Title To Premises

In Fort Worth, Texas, the Star-Telegram reports:
  • Last summer, Joseph and Rene Gordon, both in their late 60s, were on the verge of losing their modest family home in the Rolling Hills subdivision of Fort Worth.

    Rene Gordon, 66, was in and out of the hospital after two brain aneurysms and a stroke. Overwhelmed by his wife’s poor health, Joseph Gordon, 68, failed to respond to a notice from the Tarrant Appraisal District asking for verification of a tax deferral affidavit that allowed the couple to waive all taxes associated with the property.

    So, even though there had been no “for sale” sign on the green lawn of the early 1970s-style brick house, the Gordons faced a tax deliquency and foreclosure action. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, the 1,400-square foot dwelling sold on the auction block. Sale price: $23,000.

    They couldn’t understand how such a thing could happen. “This guy called me and told me that he had bought the house,” said Joseph Gordon, a former switchman/brakeman for the Santa Fe railroad. “I told him that we haven’t sold the house.”

    All told, 2,953 affidavits have been filed with the county tax assessor-collector’s office. County officials anticipate the number of applications will rise in upcoming months, as TAD expects an increase of 14 percent on property values in 2016.

    The affadivit is allowable under the property tax code to persons who are 65 or older or disabled. The taxes are picked up after the person dies by the individual’s estate. The application is free and can be filed at the county tax assessor-collector’s office.

    Most people don’t even know that these deferrals exist,” Tax Assessor-Collector Ron Wright said. “These people with deferrals are the most vulnerable people in our society.”

    Acquired ‘for a song’

    The Gordons had lived in the house since they married in 1980. But Rene Gordon bought it when it was built in 1974. She had worked for 30 years as a licensed vocational nurse at John Peter Smith Hospital. Joseph Gordon said he was shocked when a stranger called him to order him to move out.

    He told me he got the house through the tax people,” Joseph Gordon said. “And he told me if we had $13,000, we could stay here. Otherwise, we had to get out and we were stressing.”

    Gordon, who is also disabled, contacted a Veterans Affairs office for help. He had been in Vietnam and thought there could be some form of assistance. Then he called the city.

    “Nobody wanted to pay any attention,” Joseph Gordon said. “It got really frustrating.”

    One day, wobbly and using a cane to walk, he showed up at Wright’s office with his wife, who also can barely walk because of the stroke she suffered. He explained the situation and informed the office that there had been a “mix-up. “We hadn’t sold our home,” Gordon said.

    Wright investigated the matter and learned that TAD had removed the tax deferral exemption when it did not hear back from the Gordons. “I was apoplectic,” Wright said. “I couldn’t believe what happened. … It’s so easy for things to get out of control.”

    Wright also learned that the home had been bought by a company that specializes in seizing properties that have been declared tax delinquent. The home was valued at about $72,510 by TAD in 2016.

    It sold for $23,000 on the auction block, Wright said. The buyer “picked it up for a song,” he said.

    Wright decided to contact the buyer and ask for a redemption, which allows an owner who has lost a home on auction because of a tax delinquency to buy back the home for a percentage of the purchase price.

    Wright negotiated a $3,000 settlement with the buyer. Wright paid a portion of the cost; his chief deputy paid the remainder. And the Gordons got to keep their house.

    “I didn’t make anyone aware of it,” Wright said. “We’re not looking for any fanfare here.”
For the story, see Tarrant County elderly couple almost loses house after TAD pulls exemption (Elderly couple almost lost their house; County officials removed a tax deferral when homeowners didn’t verify eligibility data; Home went on the auction block when taxes were delinquent).