The local government is refusing to back down, saying it sent several overdue tax notices to her, but the woman says all those letters went to banks or a title company and she never received them.
“To take my $164,000 house over less than $2,000, yeah I would say that’s extremely excessive,” Deborah Calley told West Michigan TV station Fox 17.
Kalamazoo County foreclosed on Calley’s home because she missed one property tax payment in 2011. She made the payments for 2012 and 2013 and told Channel 17 that she is willing to make up for the missed payment.
“When I paid the taxes in 2012 right there in Richland, no one said, ‘Oh, well you still owe money for 2011,’” Calley said. “So, I didn’t really have a clue. I thought I was right on time.”
The situation is a nightmare because everything Calley has is tied up in the house in Richland Village, Michigan. She bought the house for cash, and she and her children moved in it after a car accident in 2008. The accident left Calley with brain damage and unable to drive. The home is within walking distance of schools and the grocery store.
“When you have sunk your whole life savings and your whole family’s future into a piece of property, it shouldn’t be able to go away over less than $2,000,” Calley said.
If the foreclosure goes through, the county can sell the home at auction, and Channel 17 reported that the county has already received an $80,000 bid. The county — not Calley — would get that money.
“I’m beginning to think this is about the money,” Calley said.
County Isn’t Budging
The county says it followed the law.
“In this case we followed the statute and pursuing foreclosure is appropriate,” Kalamazoo County attorney Thom Canny said.
Canny claims the county treasurer sent Calley seven certified letters alerting her to the missed payment, but Calley says the letters were sent to out-of-state banks and a title company.
The county contends it cannot stop the foreclosure because it followed state law. County Treasurer Mary Balkema and her deputy, Greg Vlietstra, went to the home and served a notice, but even that is disputed. Calley claims that she never saw the two or received the notice. In court testimony shown in a Fox 17 news story, Vlietstra said he couldn’t remember to whom he gave the notice.
“The county admitted in this case, under oath I might add, that the certified mail that was sent to Deb’s house came back,” Calley’s attorney, Ven Johnson, said. “In other words, she never accepted it. So, that means that the county knows it wasn’t successful.”
Johnson believes the officials may have given the certified letter to one of Calley’s young daughters. If that happened, the action was not legal because the children have no legal standing in such a case.
“This is an absolute abuse of power by the Kalamazoo County Treasurer’s office, plain and simple,” Johnson said. “This is a civil proceeding and it can be set aside by an agreement between the lawyers with the approval of the judge. All the judge cares about is that everything’s done legally and fairly and if Deb were to pay her taxes and the county would set aside the foreclosure it all would be fine.”
The fate of Calley’s home is now in the hands of a county judge who will make a ruling on the matter in early October.
The foreclosure of homes because of unpaid property taxes is a growing problem in Michigan, realtor Becky Doorlag told the TV station. Many people don’t know how or when to pay property taxes because such levies are usually paid by the mortgage company and not the homeowner. When the home has no mortgage, the property owner must pay the taxes directly.
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