Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

Is this a good equal protection case?

Have a client with several dozen rental properties, all in o napoleone06/25/17
No. I assume he's targeted because he has so many he doesn't fettywap06/25/17
In my state, and I think most, the county doesn't actually f onehell06/25/17
Yeah, many states of a law for tax sales when the taxes go u sjlawyer06/26/17
Right, and anything that's worth anything will sell to those onehell06/27/17
Rational review because no protected class. The county had a vohod06/25/17
take his case with a hefty upfront retainer dingbat06/26/17
Just remember that if you file in state court in the rust b 2tierreality06/25/17
I'm sympathetic to the landowner but the present facts sound isthisit06/26/17
As long as they are legally foreclosing on him I don't think flharfh06/26/17
napoleone (Jun 25, 2017 - 9:13 pm)

Have a client with several dozen rental properties, all in one County in my area of the rust belt. Many of them are delinquent on property taxes. The county government does not like this guy. The county has filed foreclosures on all of his delinquent properties, regardless of whether they are 7 years behind or 1 year behind. There are many thousands of tax delinquent parcels in this county, most of which the county has not foreclosed on. This guy feels like the county is targeting him personally rather than applying a consistent rule in deciding which properties to foreclose on. I work in real estate but this seems like it would be a federal claim. Any body have any thoughts as to the merits of such a claim?

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fettywap (Jun 25, 2017 - 9:28 pm)

No. I assume he's targeted because he has so many he doesn't pay.

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onehell (Jun 25, 2017 - 10:15 pm)

In my state, and I think most, the county doesn't actually foreclose on anything. Rather, the county sells the property tax lien to an investor who may or may not eventually foreclose depending on whether the owner makes good with the investor. As such, the foreclosure itself is a matter between private parties.

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sjlawyer (Jun 26, 2017 - 9:09 am)

Yeah, many states of a law for tax sales when the taxes go unpaid because it is supposed to fill in the budget gap for unpaid taxes. however, not every tax sale certificate is purchased and in my jx, that meant a tax sale certificate with a maximum interest rate (18%) goes to the municipality (not county, but that is state dependent, obviously).

If a private buyer purchases the tax sale certificate, they can foreclose after, I think, 2 years with the owner having a right of redemption (with interest). Municipalities can foreclose after a 6 month holding period.

I'm with Fetty in that this dude doesn't pay, so they're foreclosing. My guess is, they just got to his name (or his LLC name) in the alphabet and are doing all his properties at once (why not?). Vohod also has proper simple analysis both legally and practically

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onehell (Jun 27, 2017 - 2:51 pm)

Right, and anything that's worth anything will sell to those private investors. The only things that no one bids on are worthless anyway.

The point, though, is that in all likelihood these liens are now held by some private investor. Since the foreclosure, if any, is an action by one private party against another, equal protection doesn't apply.

Even if this is a direct county action, a selective enforcement claim is not likely to go anywhere because the standard of review would be rational basis. Even if they were targeting him because they think he's a jerk, prioritizing an investor who owns 12+ parcels over some grandmother who fell behind on her taxes and stands to lose her primary residence would easily pass rational basis review, as there is certainly no reason to apply a heightened scrutiny.

OP will probably end up just telling this dude to pay his taxes, IMHO.

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vohod (Jun 25, 2017 - 10:22 pm)

Rational review because no protected class. The county had a rational basis for targeting a repeat tax delinquent and the foreclosures are reasonably related to that end.

Do not take his case. He will stiff you just like the county. These guys are a dime a dozen in every state.

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dingbat (Jun 26, 2017 - 1:02 pm)

take his case with a hefty upfront retainer

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2tierreality (Jun 25, 2017 - 10:25 pm)

Just remember that if you file in state court in the rust belt, as far as Judge Smails is concerned, the guy who is delinquent paying his property taxes is putting his judicial pension and retiree health benefits at risk. Don't expect to make it past summary judgment. Just sayin'.

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isthisit (Jun 26, 2017 - 9:26 am)

I'm sympathetic to the landowner but the present facts sound like the county is moving against his properties in the normal course of business. Tax sales suck but unless the county sheriff or another state actor came up on his porch, called him a slur, and said they were running him out of this county, there's nothing there.

Guy could consult with a BK attorney about going chapter 11 and restructuring his tax debts. Assuming the plan gets confirmed, he could keep his properties and get on a payment plan. But if his properties are real losers than it may be better to offload them.

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flharfh (Jun 26, 2017 - 2:40 pm)

As long as they are legally foreclosing on him I don't think he has a case. It's like arguing that you shouldn't have been stopped for speeding because the other guy going just as fast as you wasn't pulled over.

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