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Wayne Co. extends tax deadline on auction properties

The Detroit News
  • Deadline pushed from Dec. 16 to May 26
  • Some 20,000 tax-foreclosed homes owe taxes again

Detroit — Wayne County officials on Wednesday gave buyers of tax-foreclosed properties more time to get current on taxes.

Treasurer Ray Wojtowicz has threatened to seize property from those who bought at tax auctions and then allowed those taxes to go unpaid for two years. Some 20,000 were expected to revert back to the county on Dec. 16, but Wojtowicz extended the payment deadline to May 26.

“I don’t want to take anyone’s property but I have to collect taxes,” Wojtowicz said in remarks distributed to the media. “I hope that by granting additional time, more taxpayers will pay their taxes rather than lose their property.”

For years, critics have complained the county’s online tax auction perpetuates a cycle of blight. Bidders have to pay all back taxes and fees on foreclosed properties that go up for auction in September. Those that don’t sell go to an October auction with opening bids of $500.

The Detroit News has reported that thousands of properties are sold by the county only to fall again to foreclosure because of unpaid taxes. By law, properties are foreclosed after three years of tax nonpayment.

Wojtowicz responded to the criticisms by added clauses to purchases since October 2011 requiring buyers to stay current on taxes for two years or risk having them be seized by the county.

The county served seizure notices on 22,000 properties this year. Owners of “some 2,000 have come forward to address their failure to pay,” according to a statement from the county.

The process was upheld by the courts and Wojtowicz said he plans to return to court in January to enforce the latest deadline. During the extra time, he plans to reach out to owners.

“My hope is that we can use this time to reach out to taxpayers who might have missed our earlier notice so that we can help them avoid reversion of their property,” Wojtowicz said.

The action is separate from 75,000 properties countywide — including 62,000 in Detroit — that the county plans to foreclose next year because of nonpayment of taxes. The News reported this week that more than half of those Detroit properties, 37,000, are occupied.