A $US134 property tax bill was all it took for an elderly Vietnam veteran to lose his home to foreclosure in Northeast Washington, D.C. two years ago.
An investigation conducted by Michael Sallah, Debbie Cenziper, and Steven Rich of The Washington Post reveals the story of 76-year-old Bennie Coleman, who was forced out of his home after failing to pay the bill.
From The Post:
In 2006, he forgot to pay a $US134 tax bill, prompting the city to place a lien on the home and add $US183 in interest and penalties. His son paid the $US317 bill in 2009, records show, but that wasn’t enough.
The Maryland company that had bought the lien had already gone to court to put a foreclosure in motion. To lift the lien, the company’s lawyer was demanding steep legal fees and expenses — $US4,999.
Despite new laws passed in the district to slow down the pace of foreclosures, the inevitable couldn’t be stopped. After his son wasn’t able to pay the added fees, U.S. marshalls came to force him off the property in 2011.
Coleman, a retired Marine veteran known in the neighbourhood by his nickname “Tops,” suffered from dementia — and often forgot to pay bills, or even buy food. His mortgage was paid off in 1988 for $US57,500, from life insurance money received after his wife died in 1988.
“I have nothing,” Coleman told The Post.
The Post investigation shows this is not uncommon: It’s part of a D.C. government program that brings in private investors to recover taxes, by selling a tax debt lien which can then be brought to court to pursue foreclosure.
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