City Charts Path to Tax Sale Reform, Will Purchase 450+ Owner-Occupied Liens

While outlining plans for equitable reform, Baltimore City will purchase hundreds of liens on owner-occupied tax sale properties.

Baltimore City Mayor Brandon Scott announced the City’s short- and long-term strategy for comprehensive tax sale reform, prioritizing immediate relief to owner-occupied properties facing tax sale. Today’s announcement follows the Mayor’s decision in May to remove first-time owner-occupied liens from the annual tax sale.

As part of its commitment to protecting legacy residents, Mayor Scott said the City would purchase liens of 454 owner-occupied homes this fall. This action will satisfy outstanding liens attached to these properties, diverting homeowners from the private tax lien process.

In addition, the Mayor announced a new Tax Sale Work Group to identify and recommend solutions to close gaps in the system and advise the City on how to make the process more equitable. In addition, the Work Group will evaluate ways to offer residents more options to satisfy outstanding tax debts and work with state lawmakers to allow for greater local autonomy in administering the annual tax sale.

“We know that tax sale currently does not operate in a way that is fair to our city’s low-income homeowners,” said Mayor Scott. “I look forward to working closely with the Tax Sale Work Group to build a more equitable process, while also taking steps now to provide needed relief to our most vulnerable homeowners.”

State law requires counties and Baltimore City to collect delinquent real property taxes and other unpaid charges, all of which are liens against real property. In addition, the law requires that tax sales occur no later than two years from the date the tax is in arrears.

As previously reported on Conduit Street, MACo this year supported legislation to divert homeowners from the private tax lien process into an alternative program to minimize tax collection costs, assist with the payment of overdue taxes, and allow homeowners to remain in their homes.

According to a press release:

Funds for the purchase will come from a combination of Baltimore City general funds and federal grants. This will be an interim measure while the Tax Sale Work Group works towards comprehensive reform.

The Mayor was joined for the announcement by City Administrator Christopher Shorter, Council President Nick Mosby, Council Member Odette Ramos (D-14), City government officials, and housing advocates.

The Tax Sale Work Group will be made up of housing advocates, legal aid professionals, and tax sale experts, focused on comprehensive reform of the tax sale process. Chaired by Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Daniel Ramos and Daniel Ellis, the membership is as follows:

  • Daniel Ellis – Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) of Baltimore – Co-Chair
  • Daniel Ramos – Deputy City Administrator – Co-Chair
  • Owen Davis – St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center
  • Margaret K. Henn, Esq. – Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS)
  • Heidi Kenny – Kenny Law Group, LLC
  • Nneka Nnamdi – Fight Blight Bmore
  • Shana Roth-Gormley – Community Law Center
  • Claudia Wilson Randall – Community Development Network of Maryland
  • Representative – Baltimore City Information Technology
  • Representative – Department of Finance
  • Representative – Department of Housing and Community Development
  • Representative – Department of Public Works

The Work Group will have its first meeting later this fall. Meetings are open to the public and can be found on the Boards and Commissions webpage: mayor.baltimorecity.gov/bc

Learn more about tax reform in Baltimore City.

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