Mississippi readers may be interested in an issue that is cropping up in neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. People are facing foreclosure over as little as $134 in past due property taxes. In the past, local investors would buy tax liens as a way to make money off the interest they could charge until the money was repaid. However, the D.C. government started allowing out-of-state investors to come in and it is alleged the program is predatory.

Homeowners, who are often elderly, ill and living in the poorest parts of the city, find a $500 tax lien morphing into a $5,000 debt they can’t pay. If they couldn’t find a way to pay the soaring fees, the investors would foreclose and the owner ended up on the sidewalk among his or her possessions. The city claims that tax sales are the only way to compel some homeowners to pay their bill, and that the law allows the owner six months to pay before foreclosure can be started.

Recently, the Office of Tax and Revenue made some changes and no longer sells liens that are in an amount of less than $1,000. It also claims to be giving homeowners more warnings before the foreclosure process begins, but acknowledges these changes were made to help with the massive caseload, and at this point, aren’t permanent changes to policy.

The risk of foreclosure is often present when individuals are having trouble paying their mortgages or property taxes. If this issue occurs, it may be wise to allow an attorney to review the case. An attorney with experience in bankruptcy matters may be able to stall a foreclosure proceeding with a bankruptcy filing. Such an attorney may also be able to suggest other forms of debt relief that may be available.

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