Consumer Warning: Consequences of not paying property taxes
MARYLAND – Habitat for Humanity of Wicomico County is issuing a warning about how quickly you can lose your home, if you’re late paying your property taxes. It’s a situation that potentially hundreds of people face each year because they aren’t aware of the laws in place.
These regulations were brought to 47 ABC’s attention after we heard about a Wicomico County resident who, like many people, fell on hard times financially. After more than 20 years of paying her bills on time, she couldn’t pay her property taxes and owed about three hundreds dollars. But now she’s less than two weeks away from potentially losing her home all because officials say homeowners aren’t aware of the help that’s out there to prevent things from getting to this point, in the first place.
“She got certified letters that her home had been sold in a Tax Sale and she had no idea what that meant,” says Molly Hilligoss, the Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity of Wicomico County.
Hilligoss says she recently learned about a homeowner who had no idea she was months away from being evicted. “But we know there are probably several dozen others that their properties have already been sold and were just unaware,” says Hilligoss.
Officials say this can happen to any homeowner that’s late on paying property taxes because of the state’s procedures. However, the County says people are given plenty of notices starting in January, six months before their home is sold.
“In April you receive a final notice, the property owner receives a final notice, before we actually begin to advertise in May four times in the paper that your property is going up for tax sale,” says Michele Ennis, the Director of Finance for Wicomico County.
The county adds they’ve even changed policies to try and work with people who are behind on their taxes. “We wait two years before we go send any property to tax sale. Additionally it’s written on the tax bill to call us, we have partial payments we can work these things out,” says Wicomico County Executive Bob Culver.
But officials agree that these laws and deadlines can be complicated to understand which is why they are spreading awareness about the help that is out there.
“Our goal is to build awareness that number one if you’re in trouble with your taxes work out a payment plan with the county because if you don’t you are essentially barred from all the other programs and help,” says Hilligoss.
Hilligoss adds that people might understand the severity of not paying property taxes if they were consulted by a person and not certified mail. However, the county says they simply don’t have the manpower to do that because there are more than 40-thousand homes across the county. So again if you are behind on your taxes and receive a notice, just call the county to figure out how you can address the problem.
For information on how Wicomico County can help you with your property tax payments call the County Department of Finance at 410-548-4840.
For information how how Habitat for Humanity of Wicomico County can help you with home ownership call 410-546-1551.