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Rhode Island Supreme Court Affirms Tax Sale of Home Over Unpaid Utility Bills

Municipalities, states, and even the federal government have the right to force the sale of a property to recover unpaid taxes or other fees from the property owner. Property owners who may face a tax sale should be given sufficient notice and the opportunity to pay back what is due before a sale takes place. Even after a Rhode Island tax sale occurs and a new owner purchases the property, the original owner has at least one year to redeem title to the property by paying the tax sale purchaser the amount of the purchase plus certain fees. After the one-year redemption period expires, the purchaser can foreclose the original owner’s rights and take full title to the property. The Rhode Island Supreme Court recently addressed a former owner’s challenge to a purchaser’s foreclosure of a property that had been purchased at a tax sale.

The defendants in the recently decided case owned a piece of property in East Providence, Rhode Island, and owed unpaid taxes and utility bills for the property. After attempting to collect the debts from the defendants, the city held a public tax auction of the property. The plaintiff purchased the property from the city at the tax sale. The defendant did not attempt to redeem the property during the one-year redemption period, and the plaintiff filed an action to foreclose on the defendant’s right of redemption after the redemption period expired. According to the case history discussed in the appellate opinion, the defendant failed to respond to the plaintiff’s petition within the 20-day period permitted to answer and ultimately filed an incomplete response without the help of an attorney.

The defendant failed to show up at the hearing scheduled for the plaintiff’s petition, and the petition was ultimately granted. The defendants then decided to retain an attorney and appeal the hearing justice’s decision to the state supreme court. On appeal, the defendant made several arguments that the foreclosure petition was not properly prepared and served on the defendant. The high court refused to hear the defendant’s arguments, however, because the issues brought up on appeal were not brought up in the defendant’s pro se answer or at the hearing. As a result of the appellate ruling, the plaintiff will retain full title to the property and the defendant will be unable to reclaim ownership.

Are You Facing a Tax Sale or Foreclosure?

If you or someone you know is facing a tax sale or foreclosure, it is not too late to retain ownership of your property. If you wish to avoid losing your property, important steps must be taken after you receive notice of a tax sale or foreclosure, and time is of the essence. If you proceed without an attorney, you may inadvertently lose your right to redeem the property. Retaining a knowledgeable Rhode Island real estate attorney can help you ensure that you are able to keep your property with the least amount of expense and litigation. The Qualified Rhode Island real estate lawyers with Bilodeau Capalbo have experience handling tax and foreclosure issues, and with our advice and representation, you can prevent your property from being lost. Call us at 401-300-4055 to discuss your issue and schedule a free consultation with a qualified Rhode Island real estate attorney today.

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