Only one-third of the properties threatened with foreclosure actually will be taken by the city today, Corporation Counsel John Polster said.
By the end of the day Thursday, the 600-property foreclosure list had been whittled to just 192. But hundreds more will be fought in court after automatic judgments are issued against the 192 properties.
Polster said American Tax Funding, which used to work with the city to collect taxes, is fighting the city over foreclosure on 214 properties. ATF holds tax liens to those properties but the city holds liens too. A judge will have to decide who gets to take each of those properties.
Private owners also hired attorneys to defend against foreclosure on about 30 properties, Polster said.
He’s confident he can win those cases. “None of them had significant issues,” he said.
Another 40 properties are in bankruptcy court, where a judge must parcel out assets. Polster expects the city to be given those properties eventually — but it might be a long wait.
“That’s just a delay situation. The city is still Number One on the list,” he said, as creditor.
Hundreds of other owners paid their taxes, some waiting until the last minute. Officials at City Hall were taking payments all day Thursday. “There were a lot of people who paid,” Polster said.
Others hired attorneys — four owners got in just under the wire by filing legal responses to the foreclosure notice on Thursday afternoon.
“If the people file an answer, it stops me from filing a default judgment,” Polster said, but added that he’s sure he’ll be able to foreclose on those properties soon.
A few people also got a last-minute reprieve after the law department reviewed their circumstances.
Savita Liladhar, who hasn’t paid any taxes since she bought her house nearly four years ago, learned Thursday that she would have more time to pay.
She had asked for a delay because her 9-year-old son is blind and she did not want to move him to a new environment. He knows where everything is in his house, so he can navigate easily.
Liladhar owes $45,167, including interest and fees. She said she would take out a loan on her house, which does not have a mortgage, to pay off the bill. She also said she would use her tenants’ rent to pay the taxes.
City Councilman Carl Erikson said he thought it would be “dangerous” to give out reprieves in such cases, because he doubted that non-payers would become good taxpayers.
Still, the reprieves give those owners a little more time to scrape up the money to pay.
Polster doesn’t plan to give them too long. He’ll be going after those properties as soon as he finishes the default foreclosures today, he said. “We’re going to be moving forward with all of them.”
In December, he will also file foreclosures against the 20 owner-occupants who qualified for a homestead exemption from the first round of foreclosures. Owners who had lived in the house during the entire time that taxes were not paid, and have no more than one rental unit, were given a temporary reprieve to raise the money to pay off their bill.
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