Telegram - Serving Metropolitan Detroit Since 1944

By Renee Summers
Telegram Reporter 

Wayne County Treasurer's Office Aims to Keep Residents in Their Homes

 

Wayne County Treasurer Eric Sabree

Benjamin Franklin said in 1789, "In this world, nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes." Nearly a year and a half into a pandemic, most have had enough talk of death and illness so maybe it is time to put the focus on something less intimidating: property taxes in Wayne County.

The reason property taxes in Wayne County are less intimidating is that Wayne County Treasurer Eric Sabree and his staff at the Wayne County Treasurer's Office (WCTO) have been working with county residents for the past few years to make them aware of assistance programs and tax payment plans available to them.

When COVID-19 hit Michigan in March of 2020, the WCTO shut down for three months, suspending all in-person operations and reopening in June. Sabree realized that while 70 percent of all property tax payments are normally received in person, with that option closed to property owners something had to be done. He decided that in fairness to property owners who were now unable to pay in person or discuss their tax case with a representative, there would be no property foreclosures in 2020. Sabree wants residents to be aware, however, that for the upcoming tax year, the deadline for paying forfeited taxes or entering into a tax payment plan will be March 31, 2022. All tax foreclosures on occupied properties have been delayed until that date.

"We're doing everything we can to keep people in their homes, we want to stress that," he says. "We've had two years where no occupied properties were foreclosed. This year we're working very hard because some people have gotten behind."

But for a majority of Wayne County residents owing outstanding taxes, payments via payment programs continued to be made despite the pandemic and the crises it brought including job cutbacks and losses. "I'm pleasantly surprised that people were paying at the rate they were paying. Considering what was brought on, I thought we would have a huge drop in collection. We had an initial drop when our office was closed in 2020 for three months but then everything picked up and leveled off."

If your property tax bill is causing you worry, the WCTO encourages you to reach out and find a payment plan to suit your needs. Programs which had been made available to residents are still in operation, including a variety of payment plans for homeowners/occupants and landlords. The Pay as You Stay (PAYS) Program, introduced two years ago, has the ability to lower the amount of delinquent taxes owed for lower income homeowners who qualify.

The Interest Reduction Stipulated Payment Agreement (IRSPA) is designed for owner-occupied properties and aids those struggling with years of delinquent property taxes. This payment plan reduces the interest rate from 18% to 6% for eligible taxpayers.

The Distressed Owner Occupant Extension (DOOE) plan is for homeowner/occupants experiencing financial distress. Proof of occupancy is required with this payment plan and interest accrues at a rate of 1.5% per month. Sabree urges anyone struggling to pay their property taxes to reach out to his office for assistance. "The main message right now is that there is a deadline of March 31 (2022). Don't wait 'til the last minute, until January or February to think about it, start working on it now," he says. "I just don't want people to lose their homes because some are having difficulty; our outreach efforts are going to be very strong this year."

In fact, an outreach effort is planned for next month. On Wednesday, August 18, an Ask the Treasurer event will be held to discuss issues of concern to Wayne County residents, including foreclosure prevention, payment plans, and understanding the auction process. The virtual event is scheduled for 6 p.m. and can be accessed via Zoom using meeting ID number 821 9294 3399 and the password 568154. If you prefer to join by telephone, call 1-215-446-3657 or 1-888-363-4735.

Sabree adds, "Nobody's losing their home this year. This is the second year in a row that nobody's lost their home and we want to keep it like that. We're working hard helping people take advantage of the programs that are available."

Contact information for the WCTO can be found at http://www.waynecounty.com/elected/treasurer/home. You can also call 313-224-5990.

 

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