Baltimore City Mayor Brandon Scott announced that the City’s annual tax sale would be postponed until June to allow more homeowners to pay off existing liens on their properties. The Mayor has also directed the Department of Finance to remove all owner-occupied properties from the sale.
The move will allow residents to take advantage of the processes and resources available to assist them in resolving liens and other financial obligations.
“This is about taking action to help us lay the foundation for a better Baltimore. Making smart changes to the tax sale process is a key part of our work to prevent vacancies and keep our longtime homeowners in their properties,” said Mayor Scott. “Stabilizing our communities is central to advancing our vision for Equitable Neighborhood Development, and I am proud to make this decision in the best interests of our residents.”
In addition, the City recently announced its Tax Sale Exemption Program, an annual program managed by the Departments of Finance and Housing and Community Development, which allows successful applicants to have their properties removed from tax sale in the year they apply.
The program, established through Baltimore City Council Bill 20-0593, directs the Director of Finance to withhold specific properties from tax sale. That legislation was sponsored by District 2 Council Member Danielle N. McCray, with the support of Mayor Brandon Scott, then Council President.
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.
MACo successfully 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 City press release:
Residents experiencing issues related to the tax sale may call 410-396-3556 to be connected with a member of the Bureau of Revenue Collections who is familiar with the tax sale process. Residents waiting for their payment to post, who are appealing any bill, and who are unsure about whether they qualify for additional support should call that number for assistance.
In addition to immediate action, the Scott Administration is looking at longer-term reforms of the City’s tax sale.
This past fall, the Mayor announced the creation of a Tax Sale Work Group made up of housing advocates, legal aid professionals, and tax sale experts, focused on comprehensive reform of the tax sale process. The Work Group will identify current gaps in the system and ways to make the process more equitable. The group will also work with state legislators to get Baltimore City more local authority over the process and advise on technological updates that would allow for payment plans.
State dollars are also available to assist homeowners through the Maryland Homeowners Assistance Fund. Residents can learn more here.