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Foreclosure reprieve won't save all at-risk Wayne Co. properties. Check the list. (Detroit Free Press article)
Christine MacDonald -Detroit Free Press


Wayne County exempted more than 6,200 occupied properties from its annual tax foreclosure auction this year because of the economic challenges brought by COVID-19 pandemic.But that doesn't mean all the county's delinquent properties are safe. Unoccupied properties still will be auctioned off this fall.

Officials with the Wayne County Treasurer's Office say more than 4,000 unoccupied properties and vacant land that owe at least three years' worth of unpaid property taxes were at-risk of foreclosure as of last week.

More:View Detroit properties at risk of tax foreclosure in this year's Wayne County auction

Wayne County Treasurer Eric Sabree said he decided to give the owners ofoccupied properties more time to pay amid the pandemic because it has been tough to access government offices to get foreclosure help and many owners are waiting on federal financial aid, such as rental assistance.

A judge last month granted Sabree's request to extend the redemption deadline for occupied properties until March 2022, while the office moves ahead with the auction of unoccupied delinquent properties. This will be the first sale held since the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional for county treasurers to keep money left over after overdue taxes are paid from the proceeds.

Last month, Sabree's office visited every at-risk property with a structure on it to determine whether it was occupied or not.

Officials with the Wayne County Treasurer's Office say more than 4,000 unoccupied properties and vacant land that owe at least three years worth of unpaid property taxes were at-risk of foreclosure as of last week including this property at 15348 Ilene Street in Detroit.

Sabree said, despite the survey, it's possible that the county mistakenly listed a property as unoccupied and urged owners to check to see if they are on the list of properties his office has slated for foreclosure. He said they will remove a property from the auction if an owner can prove it is occupied.

"If you see your property on this list, communicate with us," Sabree said. "We want to be accurate. We don't want to foreclose on any occupied properties."

Who is safe from foreclosure?

If you own a house or business that was occupied as of May 7, the county will not foreclose on it this year. (May 7 was the date that a judge granted Sabree's request to extend the redemption deadline of occupied properties.) The county is moving forward to auction only properties it considers unoccupied. That's a change from last year when Sabree halted the auction entirely amid the pandemic. Sabree said if his office learns that an occupied property slipped through to the auction this fall, he said he can remove it or even cancel the sale.

How do I know if my property is in the auction?

The Free Press has partnered with Outlier Media to give owners a way to look up this year's foreclosure status of their Wayne County properties. The lookup can be viewed at below or athttps://outliermedia.org/get-help/.

Outlier Media runs an SMS texting service to share information about COVID-19 in Detroit. Text "Detroit" to 73224 for information about food, jobs, health and safety as well as information about housing and utilities.

The treasurer's office also has a link on its website https://www.waynecounty.com/elected/treasurer/ where the list of properties being foreclosed can be downloaded.

What if my occupied property is listed to be foreclosed by mistake?

If the property was occupied as of May 7, contact the treasurer's office to make sure the office can remove it from possible foreclosure. They will require some proof the property was occupied, Sabree said. The treasurer's office is open only for appointments, which can be made online. Owners seeking help can also call 313-224-5990 or send an email to taxinfo@waynecounty.com.

What is the deadline to save an unoccupied property?

The deadline to redeem vacant land or unoccupied properties is June 18. Owners have to pay the amount that triggered the foreclosure, which would be any property tax debt from 2018 or earlier.

How can I find out how much I owe?

Owners can search their current tax debt by going to the Wayne County Treasurer's website at https://pta.waynecounty.com/Home/PropertySearch.

How can I get help paying my property tax debt?

There is help available for those who own and live in the their homes in Detroit through a program called Pay As You Stay. The Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency can help residents apply. Go to https://www.waynemetro.org/propertytax/ or call 313-244-0274. Officials encourage all homeowners who need assistance to apply, even if you think you may not qualify. Exceptions are made. Wayne County residents living outside of Detroit can also contact Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency at 313-388-9799or waynemetro.org for other programs available for those homeowners with property tax debt.

Contact Christine MacDonald at 313-418-2149 or cmacdonald@freepress.com.