Judge halts eviction of Lincoln Park tax foreclosure

Christine MacDonald
The Detroit News
  • Wayne County Circuit Judge David Allen halted the eviction of Sonia Vargas until March 16
  • Vargas argues her foreclosure was illegal, claiming she was told she still had time to save her home
  • Lincoln Park bought the house from the county last summer and resold it to a developer
  • Lincoln Park judge recently ruled she had to post a $72,200 surety bond while the appeal was heard

A Lincoln Park woman fighting eviction after losing her home to tax foreclosure won a two-week reprieve Thursday.

Wayne County Circuit Judge David Allen halted the eviction of Sonia Vargas until March 16, amid a protracted legal battle over the sale of her home and others to developers.

Vargas argues her foreclosure was illegal, claiming she was told by county staffers she still had time to save her home before it was taken last year over an unpaid $6,000 tax bill. The city of Lincoln Park bought the house from the county last summer and resold it to a developer.

Vargas has appealed to Wayne County Circuit Court to stop her eviction, but a Lincoln Park judge recently ruled she had to post a $72,200 surety bond — the value of her home — while the appeal was heard. The money is supposed to protect the developer, Warren-based JSR Funding, from possible damage to the home during the court case.

Bonds typically are purchased for a percentage of their worth. Vargas doesn’t have the money or collateral to pay, her attorney, Tarek Baydoun said in court Thursday.

“The bond is so ridiculous,” he said.

Allen said Thursday he would set a hearing in the next two weeks to establish whether Vargas is indigent.

JSR attorney Tony Taweel argued there was no proof Vargas can’t pay the bond. He said the appeals have “thrown a monkey wrench” into the company’s plans to rehab the home and raise property values in the neighborhood.

Lincoln Park District Judge David Zelenak recently ruled JSR could evict Vargas and four other families whose tax foreclosed homes were similarly bought and resold by the city. Zelenak ruled all had to post bonds for the value of the homes during the appeal.

All families are appealing the bond amounts, but the hearings have yet to occur.

Amid the wrangling, Vargas and 17 other families with foreclosed homes also are suing in federal court.

The action comes as a growing number of Wayne County suburbs are buying tax-foreclosed homes and selling them to developers, saying they want to prevent blight and discourage absentee landlords from acquiring properties at tax auctions.

But many homeowners, who were on tax repayment plans, said they weren’t aware the properties were sold until served with eviction notices. Some acknowledged missing payments but said county staffers led them to believe they had more time to save their homes.

cmacdonald@detroitnews.com