County shortens timeline to buy back homes forfeited for unpaid taxesProperty owners who lose their homes because of unpaid taxes will have less time to buy the property back.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
Property owners who lose their homes because of unpaid taxes will have less time to buy the property back.
The Douglas County Board approved a measure that shortens the timeline in which property owners can repurchase their property. Now, property owners will have until Jan. 1 to pay all back taxes and penalties.
The measure resulted from discussion about the county’s liability when former owners remain in a home after the county has taken it for back taxes, said Supervisor Keith Allen.
The goal behind expediting the process is to remove false hope for former homeowners who may believe staying in the property, even though it is owned by the county, is hope they will be able to keep it.
While the county typically takes tax title for property with unpaid taxes in October, the old policy gave people until March 1 to catch up on their taxes and buy back the property.
Whether a county allows a former owner to repurchase a property is at the county’s discretion under Wisconsin law.
“We’ve had people stay in their property over a year and that’s more prevalent as the years go on,” Allen said. “We see a trend. Some people say they’re using the system. We, letting them do that, gives them false hope.”
In many cases, the people have no hope, Allen said.
He said in situations where the county laid down a deadline to repurchase, people seemed appreciative to an answer from the county.
“One of the things brought to my attention is the county might have to heat these properties all winter,” said Supervisor Alan Jaques. “I don’t know if there is any kind of cost associated with that.”
County Board Chairman Doug Finn said the county’s Land and Development Committee, which has oversight of county-owned property, has worked diligently to allow property owners them to repurchase their homes.
“In most cases, they just don’t have the ability to do the things they would like to do,” Finn said.
He said the county has to ensure is that people are evicted from the property sooner, something he said he wasn’t sure he was comfortable with happening.
“We need to realize that may happen,” Finn said.
Generally, when the county takes a property for tax deed, the property owner is four years behind in paying their property taxes.
In addition to changing the rules for repurchasing properties, the board approved issuing tax deeds last week, including 26 improved properties countywide.
Supervisor Dave Conley suggested board members contact people in their districts to make sure they are aware of the county board’s action.
“It may be they have an out lot that they didn’t realize they weren’t paying taxes on,” he said.