The City of Buffalo has started its annual in rem tax foreclosure action (in rem 45). The foreclosure action represents the City’s effort to collect taxes, water charges, and user fees that are delinquent by two or more years. The process will eventually lead to the sale of hundreds of properties at tax auction in October.
How many properties are affected? Believe it or not, there are about 5,000 properties targeted by the City of Buffalo tax foreclosure action, and some homeowners owe less than $1,000 in taxes, water charges, and user fees. Although many people are able to pay the delinquent taxes as soon as they receive the foreclosure notice, many other people really don’t know where to turn when the foreclosure starts.
Every year, we receive calls from dozens of clients at this time of year looking for advice. Many people don’t really believe that the City is going to sell their property. They figure they can work something out at the last minute. This may be true in some cases, but I can assure you that the City is serious about its tax foreclosure, and if the homeowner doesn’t act, the property will be sold regardless of the amount of debt.
So what should you do if you are facing a tax foreclosure? First of all, don’t panic. If you take the right steps, you can definitely stop the foreclosure. The larger question is whether you should try to negotiate a deal with the City or whether you should seek legal help. In our experience, most people facing tax foreclosure have other debts as well, so they probably need the protection that bankruptcy can give them. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy gives the homeowner up to five years to get caught up on the taxes, while eliminating most other types of debt. Chapter 13 allows the homeowner to keep the property without any lump sum payment.
A homeowner facing foreclosure may also be able to work out a short term payment arrangement with the City of Buffalo, and if the taxes, water bill and use fees total less than $1,000, then seeking a deal with the City may be the best bet. If the tax debt is higher or if you have other bills as well, please contact our office for advice before making any decisions. We have helped hundred of people over the years stop tax foreclosures, and we are always happy to give you our advice (for free) about how best to handle the foreclosure process.