Phil Querin Q&A: Abandoned Home with Lots of Deferred Taxes

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February 6, 2013

Question: We are currently dealing with an abandoned home where the tenant has passed away and he was in a "Senior Tax Deferral" program through the Oregon Dept. of Revenue (“DOR”). According to our county tax collector the deceased tenant’s account is current, since the DOR has paid them ever since the tenant entered the program in 1999. A title search on the home has the DOR listed as a lien holder. My question is if and when the abandoned property is sold at a private auction and we (the Landlord) win with the highest sealed bid, are we liable for the taxes in the program? Are they considered already paid? Is the DOR simply a lien holder or are they considered a tax collector? Side note: According to the tax collector, this home is valued at approximately $20,000.

Answer: The Department of Revenue (“DOR”) is treated like any other lienholder. It is critical that before the 45-day letter is sent, the park check with the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services (“DCBS”) to determine if there are any lienholders on title. We understand that DOR is now showing up on the DCBS records. Remember, if they show up on the record and you fail to give them notice, they could come back against the park for failing to notify them. If they show up on the DCBS records, they should be copied on the 45-day letter, and given all of the same rights as other lienholders, e.g. entering into a one year storage agreement, paying the storage fees, selling the home, etc. Currently, it is our understanding the DOR does not sign and returned storage agreements. If there is a purchase money lien on the property, it will be superior to the DOR and then it [the DOR] will only get payment if there is any equity from the sale. Since the property is worth more than $8,000, if there is no sale, it would go to auction. [Caveat: Even if the DOR doesn’t respond to the 45-day letter, they still must be notified of the upcoming auction, per the statute. Again, there could be liability to the DOR if they have a valid lien, got the 45-day letter, but weren’t informed of the date and time of the auction.] As a lienholder, the DOR is behind the park, in terms of payment of cost, and then the county tax collector [which presumably is current – thanks to the DOR]. Next, as a lienholder, the DOR would receive some payment. If there are any further proceeds, they would go to the tenant, and if the tenant cannot be located, then to the county fund. If the landlord follows these procedures, there is no remaining liability to the DOR for and of the taxes paid under the program.

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