On Wednesday, Legal Aid joined its partners in the AT HOME (Alliance to Help Owners Maintain Equity) coalition to issue the following statement on real property tax sale reform:
AT HOME, the Alliance to Help Owners Maintain Equity, supports the Mayor’s and Council’s call to pass emergency real property tax reforms.
AT HOME’s proposed “Residential Real Property Equity and Transparency Act of 2013” (B20-0023) includes important provisions that are essential to any permanent reform. In addition, the Council should ensure that the excess equity value of any home is preserved for the homeowner—not transferred as a windfall for the tax sale purchaser.
While we work toward the adoption of permanent reforms, the emergency legislation should:
* Freeze in place all pending tax sale foreclosure suits until permanent reform legislation is in place. No District resident should face the risk of losing their home under the current broken system.
* Cancel the July 2013 tax sale. These recently-sold liens are within the “grace period” under existing law, during which purchasers may not begin taking any action to foreclose on the liens. The District should simply cancel these sales outright and restore the status quo by refunding the bid payments to the tax sale purchasers.
* Immediately reduce the interest rate on past-due taxes from 18% to 6%.
* Cap attorneys' fees at $1,500.00, excepting only exceptional cases in which the Superior Court finds that reimbursement at a higher figure is justified.
* Empower an independent OTR Public Advocate to help property owners resolve tax issues.
With Best Regards,
Crowell & Moring LLP
Legal Counsel for the Elderly
AARP District of Columbia
Bread for the City
Housing Counseling Services
The Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia
Manna Mortgage Corporation
Miller & Chevalier Chartered (pro bono counsel in foreclosure cases)
University Legal Services
Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless