The Scarborough Town Council is making it a little easier to give property owners whose properties have gone into foreclosure another opportunity to make the situation right before it becomes town-owned property.
William Donovan, chairman of the Rules and Policies Committee, said the changes to the Disposition of Tax Acquired Property policy is intended to allow former owners of residential, commercial, or non-owner occupied properties a one-time opportunity to regain possession of the property.
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“We did not want to be taking property of substantial value, substantial equity where it was inadvertent and there is an opportunity for the owner to pay us back everything we’ve put into the process of foreclosing,” Donovan said.
Donovan said it is a “generous policy” compared to other communities.
“We didn’t think we ought be in the business of taking people’s equity when there are a lot of circumstances that can arise and make it difficult for people,” Donovan said.
The policy states that once a property is reviewed, town-owned and recommended for this one-time opportunity, Town Manager Tom Hall shall send a certified and first class letter to the former property owner to alert them about the reacquisition process. Hall said additional methods may be used as well, including knocking on door at the property.
To qualify for the opportunity, a former property owner must inform Hall in writing within 30 days of receiving the aforementioned letter and agree to pay within 90 days all back taxes, interest accrued and other fees the town paid as part of the foreclosure process.
According to the newly amended policy, “upon full, timely and satisfactory completion of all requirements and payment under this Article, the subject property shall be conveyed to the former owner by the Municipal Tax Release Deed.”
Town Councilor Shawn Babine said some people may see this as a “money grab,” but that isn’t the case.
“I am not looking for the equity. I am looking at getting the tax monies owed,” he said.
How a property gets to the foreclosure phase and how the town responds will remain the same. The Town Treasurer is required to alert the “last known owner of record that his or her right to redeem the tax lien mortgage securing the collection of property taxes has expired” and annually forward a list of properties acquired due to non-payment to Hall.
A group of town officials, including members of the Town Council, Conservation Commission, Planning Board Chairman, Public Works Director, Fire Chief, Police Chief, Community Services Director, Emergency Service Director and Town Engineer, will review the list to determine if the properties should be retained by the town for public use within 21 days of receiving the list.
The properties will then be retained for public use, sold, or offered to the former owner through the one-time reacquisition opportunity.