Last year, Maine passed a law to provide extra protections to elderly homeowners who are behind on their property taxes. Less than six months after the new law took place, it faced repeal; but lawmakers reportedly decided this week to leave the law as-is for now.
The bill, championed by former Maine Governor Paul LePage, aims to protect elderly homeowners from tax foreclosure. The bill lays out a multistep preforeclosure process municipalities must follow before foreclosing on the home of residents 65 or older who are delinquent on property taxes.
The law requires “active municipal assistance with an abatement application and mediation if necessary to create a reasonable tax payment plan,” according to the bill filed with the Maine legislature. Under the new law, the homeowners in question are also able to stay in their homes until the sale is completed, and the homeowners are able to recoup any proceeds from the sale of their home beyond the amount they owed in property taxes.
Some have argued that municipalities already go to great lengths avoid foreclosing on elderly homeowners with tax forgiveness and with attempts to connect homeowners at risk with services that can help them.
Furthermore, the Portland Press Herald reported that David Little, Deputy Finance Director for Bangor, Maine, testified in a legislative hearing that most properties the municipality foreclosed on were vacant and property taxes had not been paid for between six and 10 years. He conjectured that the new law actually incentivizes municipalities to foreclose earlier in cases where homeowners are nearing the age of 65 in order to avoid the preforeclosure process the law requires.
On the other hand, Will Lund, Superintendent of the Financial Regulation’s Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection, said since the new law passed the bureau has been able to help elderly homeowners facing foreclosure by connecting them with counseling and other services, according to the Portland Press Herald. All told, the bureau has received contact from 11 foreclosure cases since the new law took effect in September of last year, according to the.
In a unanimous vote Thursday, Maine’s legislature decided to leave the law in place despite some calls for repeal.
“It really needs to have some time to play out so we can actually see if it’s worth repealing or not,” said Rep. Bruce Bickford from Auburn, Maine, according to the Portland Press Herald.