Posted: Mar 6, 2013 3:05 PM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
Updated: Mar 6, 2013 4:20 PM
HELENA - The League of Cities and Towns wants to change Montana law to protect people who are losing their homes due to unpaid property taxes.
However, the counties say the change could lead to problems.
Representative Ellie Hill of Missoula is carrying a bill that would require the sheriff to meet with homeowners face-to-face and explain to them that they are losing their home.
Montana law states if a homeowner can't pay their property taxes, any third party can pay their delinquent taxes.
If the homeowner fails to pay their taxes for three years, the third party can then take ownership of the home.
Supporters of the bill say owners who are losing their home deserve more than several notices in the mail; they deserve to talk to someone face to face.
"What we are trying to do here is provide a minimum level of protection to vulnerable people in our society - elderly people that may not be totally aware of their circumstances threatened with the loss of their homes," said Alec Hansen with the Montana League of Cities and Towns.
The Montana Association of Counties and the County Treasurers Association oppose the bill.
They say homeowners already receive plenty of notice and adding one more step in the process is cumbersome.
They also argue that counties use the tax money from these companies to operate.
"They are portrayed as these horrible businesses that swoop out of the sky and steal your property. They keep government functioning. If the businesses don't buy them, the county buys that and the county is the person doing this repossessing," said Ronda Wiggers with the Montana County Treasurers Association.
This bill is one of a handful of bills attempting to change the law relating to delinquent taxes.
Last summer, MTN conducted a lengthy investigation into this issue. Watch our half hour long documentary here: