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Letter to the Editor: County works with residents to avoid possible foreclosures

I recently heard about a West Fargo veteran who supposedly was evicted from his home for non-payment of taxes. On a radio talk show this week, I heard a caller explaining how the county evicted the veteran, and told him this was just the way it is and that he could move into government housing.

That is simply not the way the county operates. Yes, if you don't pay your taxes for a certain time period, you can forfeit your house or other property. However, Charlotte Sandvik, Cass County Treasurer, and I work with individuals that are in danger of losing their residence to avoid foreclosures if at all possible.

The county does take a small number of properties each year, but it is a lot less than most people would think given the 50,000 + properties in Cass County - taking an occupied residence is extremely rare. We work especially hard when a property is a private residence, if we think they may qualify for a homestead or veterans credit, we work with them to file the necessary forms. If they have mortgages, we try to have the owners talk to their lenders in order to pay the taxes and escrow funds for future years. Sometimes it may be that the property is overvalued -we then ask the assessor from the city or township to take another look at the property.

In 2010, the year the eviction was to have taken place in West Fargo, the county "took" 44 properties. Fourteen of those properties were redeemed prior to the date the county sells the properties, and three of those were redeemed with financing assistance from the county. Two of the Fargo properties the county auctioned were occupied residences and in both cases, there were extenuating circumstances that made forfeiture the only option for the owners. In both cases, the property taxes were not their biggest problems.

In 2011, the county "took" 73 properties and again, twelve were redeemed by the sale date; one with financing assistance from the county. The remaining properties were vacant lots, or lots with buildings that either needed to be demolished or rebuilt. None of them were occupied residences.

Yes, the county does need to follow the law and foreclose on a property when the taxes go unpaid. However, the treasurer and I work diligently to make sure owners are fully informed of deadlines, work out payment plans, do automatic payments if the property owner wishes, and accept payments of any size. In the case of residences, we try to make sure the owner is applying for all available credits and try to make sure that the property is not over assessed.

Michael Montplaisir

Cass County Auditor