Cheh to introduce emergency legislation to compensate victims of unfair tax lien sales

Supports other efforts but aims to go further

Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, Councilmember Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) circulated emergency legislation to address the unfair practices that have occurred during the District’s sale of tax liens. As widely reported, these sales have resulted in many District residents losing their homes. Cheh’s legislation requires a review of all tax liens sold from September 1, 2003 to September 1, 2013, and requires the CFO to determine what compensation should be provided to residents who lost their homes as a result of a flawed tax-sale system.

“There is no doubt that our tax-lien sales have produced patently unfair and surprisingly inhumane results. I fully support the other efforts currently underway to remedy that system, namely a moratorium on further sales, the adoption of new standards governing those sales, and an overhaul of management in the Office of Tax and Revenue. But our efforts must also make District residents whole. We need a sense of how many people were injured, the costs associated with remedying those injuries, and a plan to effect those remedies.”

Although the Office of Tax and Revenue has seen a significant drop in the amount of errors made during the tax lien process—declining from 34 percent in 2012 to 7 percent in 2013—Cheh stressed that other, local jurisdictions have error rates of 1 percent or less: “If they can get it right, so can we.”

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