Homeowners in Baltimore can lose their houses for as little as $250 in unpaid taxes — a threshold far lower than in other cities — according to a new Abell Foundation report that urges a change in the practice.
The report calls on Baltimore officials and the Maryland General Assembly to add protections for owner-occupied homes and simplify a city system that often confuses homeowners, enriches investors and adds to the number of vacant properties that line neighborhood streets.
City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke said she’s seen many residents, often elderly, get swept up in tax lien sales, and she wants the city to raise the threshold that triggers a sale to $750 in back taxes.
“So many elderly people go into tax sale,” she said. “They get confused. They maybe don’t account exactly for what’s owed. Bills get misplaced and sometimes they don’t have the money. We need to raise the limits.”
A homeowner in Washington needs to be $2,500 behind in taxes before a property is subject to a tax lien sale, 10 times higher than the threshold in Baltimore. Residential homes in New York City are subject to tax sales at $1,000.