Uri Rafaeli owed $8.41 in unpaid property taxes. That’s eight dollars and change. The amount gradually increased to $285.81 from added interest, penalties and fees. Oakland County in Michigan confiscated and sold his property for $24,500, thenkept all proceeds above the past due amount. Meanwhile, Andre Ohanessian owed about $6,000 in unpaid taxes, interest, penalties and fees to the same Oakland County, and the county sold his property for $82,000. It kept all proceeds of that sale too.
Seems fair to me!
Kidding. Actually, that seems so wrong that I don’t understand how any public officials could do such a thing, or argue that it was defensible rather than obvious theft. The Michigan Supreme Court ruled last week that the takings clause in the state constitution prevents counties from selling homes for unpaid tax debts and keeping all surplus proceeds.
Because, you know, it’s wrong.
“We are thankful that the court today vindicated Uri Rafaeli and Andre Ohanessian’s property rights,” said Christina Martin, a senior attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation, which represented Rafaeli and Ohanessian free of charge. “This decision will protect people across Michigan by prohibiting county governments from stealing from struggling property owners. No one in Michigan should lose the entire equity in their home or land for falling behind on their property taxes. We will continue the fight to help other vast numbers of people whose nest eggs have been robbed by this abuse of tax foreclosure law. Today’s decision sends a message across the country that this kind of abuse should not be tolerated in the United States any longer.”
Why has it been tolerated this long? Why didn’t Uri just pay the lousy eight dollars? (There was a famous vaudeville sketch about this question. My dad told me about it when I was a kid. “Pay the two dollars” used to be a catch phrase, but it’s now obscure. Too bad.) Why did Oakland Country spend the money to oppose a law suit that was so obviously justified? How do people capable of such conduct get into positions of power? WHAT’S GOING ON HERE???????
I really don’t understand this story at all.
In fact, 12 other states allow similar confiscation, including Arizona, Colorado, Massachusetts, and Nebraska.The Pacific Legal Foundation is making this its signature issue,
Good. But the whole issue should have never arisen, if state administrators had heard the faintest of buzzes (it should have been earsplitting, really) from their ethics alarms, and said, “What? We can’t do that! It’s would be horribly wrong!”
The case decision is here.
Pointer: ABA Journal