Mayor Cancels 2013 DC Tax Lien Sales

by Shilpi Paul

Mayor Cancels 2013 DC Tax Lien Sales: Figure 1
Courtesy of the Office of the Mayor.

Mayor Vincent Gray has initiated a few more actions in response to the Washington Post’s recent exposé which revealed a predatory tax lien sale system that resulted in city homeowners losing their houses over minor tax debts.

Late Friday, Gray ordered the cancellation of this year’s tax lien sales for owner-occupied homes that were not in foreclosure proceedings, and will be establishing a Real Property Tax Ombudsman to counsel residents who need assistance paying their debts and navigating the system.

Additionally, some city staffers have been directed to take a close look at all the pending foreclosures that are resulting from tax debts, and the mayor will be introducing legislation to make the process more fair. Among other things, the legislation will cap the legal fees that tax sale purchasers can collect at $2,200 and mandate greater outreach and introduce programs like payment plans to those whose properties are at risk of foreclosure due to unpaid tax bills.

From the press release:

“Last Sunday, when I first learned from a Washington Post article about the problem of vulnerable District homeowners losing their homes through tax-lien sales, I was appalled by the injustices cited and immediately began pursuing potential remedies,” Mayor Gray said. “The actions that Dr. Gandhi and I have taken today will ensure that, from this point forward, no District residents whose property has been sold at a tax-lien sale will be at risk of losing their homes through this process if they have extraordinary circumstances that warrant a re-examination of their cases.”

Canceling the sales will mean that the city will pay certain fees to the tax lien buyers, reported the Post, and the homeowners will still be required to pay their debts.

The Mayor’s office is now searching for an Ombudsman, and will introduce legislation when the Council session begins on Tuesday.

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This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/2013_tax_lien_sales_canceled_decides_mayor_gray/7558


  1. Marie said at 9:31 pm on Monday September 16, 2013:
    I would like for the City to make the homeowners whole whose property was unlawfully sold at DC tax lien sale in the last 3 years and to compensate any other homeowner whose property was sold unlawfully by the tax lien office. The mayor needs to recommend to Congress that Mr. Ghandi be fired.
  1. mona said at 3:10 am on Tuesday September 17, 2013:
    Don't be fooled, every single council person new this was how the tax sale worked. Until the WP wrote it up then they get nailed to the wall about it. They should have put provisions in to eliminate certain people a long time ago but it just wasn't a problem until now. The tax sale process has certainly done some bad things to some people but it has been a savior for dealing with flat out vacant and abandoned building in the city. There are a lot more vacant and abandoned building in this city then there are homeowners done wrong. Not saying I don't think that they should be compensated for these sales but it would be very hard to even figure out where the violations even occurred. It isn't just Mr Ghandi, they all knew about it.
  1. Butler Engle said at 2:21 pm on Tuesday September 17, 2013:
    This city has a multitude of city agency resources, charities, non-profits, and funds available for elderly and lower income homeowners. No one should be surprised to learn their house is up for a tax sale. No one is going to lose their home after a tax sale unless they don't pay off the debt. They have six months before the purchaser of the tax lien can foreclose on them. The mayor's response is knee-jerk and political and further erodes any sense of accountability people should have for their own affairs.
  1. hmmm said at 3:09 pm on Tuesday September 17, 2013:
    oh please Butler Engle - you clearly did not read the article. I'm a capitalist but I commend the mayor's efforts. If you think it's okay to buy someone's tax lien over a $200 tax debt, foreclose on that house, and keep the equity - you're a thief. A legal thief, sure. But a thief nonethless.
  1. Zesty said at 4:05 pm on Tuesday September 17, 2013:
    @Butler, There were cases where persons paid their debts but the payment was incorrectly applied and a lien placed on their homes. After the "investors" added large fees, some of these residents were unable to pay and lost their homes. This is in direct opposition to your assertions. We need accountability....for the CFO employees who made these mistakes and went un-reprimanded!
  1. Kelly said at 7:52 pm on Wednesday September 18, 2013:
    I find it interesting that Mayor Gray is concerned about people losing their homes over small amounts of money but was ready to put homeless adults and children out on the street by closing the only homeless shelters in DC just 2 1/2 yrs ago. Hmmmmm..............

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