By Tammy Beckett
Relief is available for residents of the city in danger of losing their homes because of tax nonpayments, Deb Cherry, Genesee County Treasurer, explained in a presentation at the February meeting of Flint Neighborhoods United (FNU).
Cherry described several programs available for homeowners in trouble and detailed requirements and upcoming deadlines. Applications for assistance are due by March 31.
Delinquent taxes can create major problems, she noted. As of Feb. 28, any unpaid city taxes will be referred to the County Treasurer’s Office. Once this happens, delinquent taxpayers will be required to pay a four percent administrative fee by law plus an additional one percent fee per month until the taxes are paid the first year.
If the homeowner still has not paid the delinquent taxes by March 1 of the second year, the property goes into forfeiture, the beginning process of foreclosure. There is also “by state law, a $235 fee, and then the interest rate increases to 1.5 percent per month,” Cherry said.
Not only does this additional interest rate continue for the months going forward, it is also retroactive to the previous year. So, the individual pays 18 percent per year. “People often think that I can waive those fees,” Cherry said, “but I cannot.”
How can people get help?
Emphasizing again that applications for assistance are due by March 31, Cherry explained that to fill out an application, property owners must come into the Treasurer’s Office, 1101 Beach St., in the Genesee County Administration Building, with a deed to their home. The applicant must actually live in that home and show “personal kinds of mail,” or a medical bill, not from the government or utilities, Cherry explained.
Applicants for assistance must be homeowners and have a principal residence exemption affidavit from the City of Flint. The Treasurer’s Office also requires income statements and generally expects a 10 percent deposit on the taxes due. Treasurers Office officials are usually strict about the 10 percent down policy unless there is an extreme problem, and may generally try to work with the applicant, Cherry said.
Though there’s a March 31 deadline, Cherry recommends not waiting until the last few days to apply, when long waits for service are common. It’s best to make an appointment in February to get the process started, she said.
Once arrangements have been made, those receiving assistance must still come in annually to reapply for whatever accommodation they have received. For residents who still can’t pay, the Treasurer’s Office has taken as little as $20 per month as payment without moving towards foreclosure.
Cherry stated the Treasurer’s Office does not want to take anyone’s home or turn properties over to the Genesee County Land Bank. However, they “do not have a choice, if somebody doesn’t work with us through this process,” she said.
All these details can be found at the Treasurer’s Office website here.
Low-income residents also can apply with the City of Flint for what is called a poverty exemption, and if they qualify, they may not have to pay any taxes. For this too, people must reapply every year. This exemption is not retroactive. Cherry said treasurers offices around the state have petitioned to allow the exemption to be retroactive, but at this point, it is not.
Another form of taxpayer assistance is the Step Forward Program. In this option, people having difficulty can apply for up to $30,000 of interest-free loans from the federal government to apply toward their taxes and mortgages. Cherry said this program was not reauthorized under the Trump administration, and is in its final year. This program requires a lot of information and not everyone qualifies, she said. To apply or obtain more information, call (866) 946-7432. The website is stepforwardmichigan.org.
Cherry files all properties in tax forfeiture with Circuit Court in June. Court officials then do personal visits, title searches, post on the properties, inform mortgage lenders, and report the properties in the newspaper.
Her office then schedules show-cause hearings where residents can explain why they are not paying their taxes. The County Treasurer’s office uses this opportunity to work out payment plans to help people to not lose their homes.
Cherry said by Feb. 10 her office submitted all of the foreclosed properties to the Circuit Court judge. “The absolute last day people can pay their taxes and not be foreclosed upon is March 31,” she said.
The Treasurer’s Office, 1101 Beach St. Flint, in the Genesee County Administration Building, is open Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The deadline to avoid foreclosure is March 31.
EVM Staff Writer Tammy Beckett can be reached at email@example.com. EVM Editor Jan Worth-Nelson contributed to this story. She is available at firstname.lastname@example.org.