LUMBERTON — Robeson County is losing needed revenue by not taking foreclosure action sooner against property owners who have not paid taxes, according to Commissioner David Edge.
During last week’s annual retreat held in Raleigh, Edge told fellow commissioners and county administrators that by the time foreclosed property is put up for sale the land has no value.
“With the condition of some of these properties, they should have been foreclosed on and sold five years ago,” said Edge, a business owner who also deals in real estate. “We’re waiting so long to sell these properties that by the time they are put up for sale they no longer have any value.”
Edge said that a perfect example of property going up for sale in deteriorated condition is one he was thinking about purchasing in the Clybourn Pines area.
“This is the only property in my district up for sale in a long time, but when I looked at it I found it to be in terrible condition, similar to others that are left vacant over several years,” he said. “What usually happens when people decide not to pay their taxes over a period of years is that they abandon the property and it’s left sitting there rotting … .The property is eventually vandalized, left to rot, and becomes scum and an eyesore to the community. We lose taxes because no one wants to purchase it, and eventually it costs us money to clean it up.”
County Manager Ricky Harris said Tuesday that the foreclosure process is time consuming. According to Harris, however, it is important that the county follow the legal process so that foreclosed properties can eventually be sold and back on the tax books generating revenue for the county.
“Right now we are working on foreclosure cases that go back as far as five years,” Harris said.
Patrick Pait, the county’s attorney, has made it a priority to shepherd county property foreclosures through the legal process.
“We’re making some progress,” he said during the retreat.
During his presentation last week to the commissioners, Pait reported that the county has 33 foreclosure lawsuits pending. He said that the amount owed on those properties is $125,378.
According to Pait’s report, in 2016 there were 29 lawsuits filed, two lawsuits were dismissed, and a third party purchased 11 of the foreclosed on properties. The amount of revenue generated by the property sales was $110,625.
Pait also used his time before the commissioners to explain the process by which property obtained through tax foreclosure is sold as surplus.
According to Pait, anyone interested in buying foreclosed on property just needs to contact the county’s assistant manager, Jason King, to place a bid. That initial bid is then brought to the county commissioners for their approval, Pait said.
Pait said that the bidder pays a deposit of 5 percent of the proposed bid or $150, whichever is greater. The party interested in purchasing the property also pays the county for advertising the bid.
“Following the advertisement of the bid there is a 10-day ‘upset bid’ period where the bid can be increased by a third party,” Pait told the commissioners. “You still have the final approval or rejection of any bid. At this stage you can still say whether the bid is enough or whether you want to reject it and take bids for the sale of the property again.”
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.