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Tax lien sales gaining popularity

Thirty-three of Ohio’s 88 counties offer tax lien sales as a way to recoup back property taxes, according to county treasurer Stephen Burcham, who introduced Lawrence County to the concept about five years ago.

Burcham made his report on Tuesday at the regular commission meeting. The commission met earlier this week because of the Thanksgiving holiday.

“(Tax lien sales) are one of those tools that have become more and more used,” Burcham said.

In a tax lien sale, potential buyers do not bid on the taxes or the property, but on an interest rate they may receive if the property owner redeems the parcel after the lien is sold. That interest rate begins at 18 percent and goes down by quarter percent. After one year the owner of the lien can foreclose if the parcel owners do not redeem the property.

Then it can be offered at a sheriff’s sale and the lien holder will get reimbursed for taxes, interests, administrative and legal costs he or she has paid. If the parcel does not sell after being offered twice at a sheriff’s sale, then the title goes to the tax lien holder.

“We are not trying to displace anyone,” Burcham said. “This is a means to meet their obligation.”

Besides the individual liens that have been sold, Tax Ease of Cincinnati has twice purchased bulk liens, paying off those delinquent taxes to the county, while getting payment from the property owners. Tax Ease forecloses on less than 2 percent of those liens, the treasurer said.

Another advantage of the tax lien program is that the county has been able to identify abandoned properties and whether the owners still live in the county, Burcham said.

If they have left town, “we can move forward with other plans,” Burcham said.

In other action the commissioners unanimously:

Appointed Proctorville businessman Danny Holshuh and Coal Grove businessman Larry Wood to three-year terms on the Lawrence County Planning Commission;

Appointed Fayette Township employee Simon Gore as a citizen volunteer on the storm water task force for a three-year term;

Signed the notice to proceed with erecting sidewalks in front of St. Ann’s Church in Chesapeake as part of the ongoing streetscape project.