By Michael Howell
If you are delinquent in paying your property taxes in Ravalli County you may already have received a Notice of Pending Assignment informing you that someone else intends to pay your back taxes. Following the notice, the taxpayer has only two weeks to pay all outstanding taxes on the property or a Tax Lien Sale of Certificate and Assignment will be issued to the third party who pays the taxes and a $75 assignment fee to the County Treasurer. Once this happens the taxpayer then owes the Assignee the amount in back due taxes, plus a $75 fee, plus ten percent interest on the balance due. If left unresolved, after the property has been under assignment for three full years from the date of the oldest tax lien sale, the assignee may start the tax deed process and eventually end up owning the property.
County Treasurer Marie Keeton told the County Commissioners last week that, for whatever reason, the number of Pending Assignment Notices in the county has spiked. She said the law has been on the books for a long time, but this year over 400 notices – more than four times the usual number – have been sent out, primarily by a single company.
Keeton said that in the past very few delinquent tax assignments actually end in the issuance of a deed. She said that most often the taxpayer resolves the tax assignment before the deed assignment process can be initiated, much less concluded.
“The laws governing deed assignments over delinquent taxes are very complex,” said Keeton. “It is a complex process that takes a good deal of time with many hurdles.” Keeton said because of this the company sending out the Pending Assignment Notices may not be all that interested in actually acquiring properties, but is interested in holding the assignment itself and collecting the 10% interest.
“Where else can you get that kind of interest for your money,” says Keeton.
Although it may come as a shock and a hardship to delinquent taxpayers, the process may be having a positive effect on tax collections, according to Keeton. As the assignment activity has mushroomed fourfold, tax collections by the county have also spiked. According to Keeton, the county has collected as much tax money in the first half of January than it did in the entire month last year.