State lawmaker attempts to change foreclosure law after local woman’s battle to keep home

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LANSING, Mich. -- One state lawmaker is trying to change Michigan's foreclosure law after hearing about a local woman's battle to keep her home.

Sen. Rick Jones said FOX 17's coverage of Deborah Calley brought his attention to an issue that impacts homeowners statewide.

Calley's home was foreclosed after she missed a single property tax payment in 2011. Under state law, after three years of being delinquent, the county can take the home.

While there's no question the county should get what's owed to them, homeowners in several counties began expressing their concerns to FOX 17 about the fact that the county can sell it and rake in huge profits . While it's legal, Sen. Jones said it shouldn't be.

"I absolutely believe that a county should be able to take a home if you don't pay your taxes for three years," Sen. Jones said. "Those taxes are so important to pay for roads, police, fire and schools. However, when they're making a profit, I think that's wrong."

In January, Jones said he will introduce a bill that if passed, would only allow for the government to take the money it's owed and give the rest back to the homeowner after selling the property.

Under the current law, Calley, who paid about $165,000 cash for her home, will not see one cent of it once it's sold by the county.

"The tax bill was $1,200. With the penalties it's just hovering under $2,000," Calley said. "At the auction, they sold it for $81,000. So, what's that--a $79,000 profit."

It's a consequence that most homeowners, including Calley, think is extreme.

"It's a house. It's money. Money comes, money goes," she said. "The big picture is the law. This should never, ever happen to anybody."

Sen. Jones agrees.

"The county should get that $2,000. They should get all the penalties. They should get all the fees. They should get the cost of the auction--that's reasonable," Sen. Jones said. "Should it profit? I don't think so."

In September, Kalamazoo County treasurer Mary Balkema told FOX 17 the Property Tax Act doesn't bring in the massive surplus for the county like people think.

"It's a pool of money that we use to increase the tax base," Balkema said. "There's some good properties that subsidize the bad properities."

Basically, Balkema means the profits from one property can make up the difference for the properties that don't sell.

However, Sen. Jones said homeowners like Calley shouldn't lose it all to keep the county in the black.

"It's obvious to me that some treasurers think that they need to make a profit from some poor person to compensate for the ones where they make nothing and I don't agree," Sen. Jones said. "I don't believe that one situation has anything to do with another."

Jones said the bill will bring in some opposition. With 83 counties in Michigan, he said he expects that all 83 treasurers will be lobbying against it.

"They never want something to stop that is bringing in money," Sen. Jones said. "The bottom line is it`s your home. We had a revolution about the government coming in from England and taking our homes. We don`t believe in that in this country."

 

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8 comments

  • Joe Bamashak

    Apparently Sen. Jones has no idea how much money this is going to cost the schools, cities, villages, townships and voted funds including libraries, senior programs, public transportation and public safety. If the county loses money at the auctions, they send that loss back to the original taxing unit. Just what we need. Less revenue for our public services. Taxpayers that lose property already have the right to challenge it in court if there was a defect in the process. Mrs Calley has lost in court because she was sent proper notice (already ruled on by the court) and ignored it. I can’t believe that the rest of us are going to have to lose MORE services because someone can scoff at the law that the rest of us have to follow. Rewarding people that don’t follow the law is not what we should be doing!

    • Mark Doorlag

      The government is never out the tax money. The interest rate they receive is at least 15%. The bureaucrats won’t ever be satisfied until they own everything. We hear it all of the time, starve old people and the poor education industry. This is law is pure evil and it leaves the treasurer in the role of executioner and benefactor!

  • GotGoals

    Senator Jones *loves* talking to the media. Does he realize that such a change in the law would shift the burden from the deadbeats (Ms. Calley) to the people who pay their bills on time? I thought Republicans were the party of law and order.

    • Mark Doorlag

      Deborah is not a dead beat. She went into her township treasurer to pay the bill and it was credited to the next years bill. She admits she owes the money. The treasurer admits they never spoke with her in court under oath. Our Constitution was put into to place to protect us from the government when it crosses the line into tyrannical behavior. The arrogance of the elected officials in Kalamazoo County is appalling!

  • MackinawMike

    This will be a real moneymaker for those who were planning to let property go anyway. Can’t sell it because it’s got lots of problems? Just let it go for taxes and wait for the check. To the people that own junk property all over the state, this will be like winning the lotto! Indiana used to do it like he’s proposing, and they quit for exactly that reason. People were buying property with the intention of letting it go back at a profit. Crazy!