On August 9, 2023

Two properties go to tax sale in Hartland 

 

By Curt Peterson

Hartland held a delinquent tax sale for two properties Thursday, Aug. 3 — one for 15 Squirrel Drive, and another for 9 Merritt Road.

Hartland’s tax sale attorney Kevin O’Toole of Dorset told the Mountain Times tax sales are usually uneventful events involving a handful of participants.

“Ultimately,” O’Toole said, “Most property owners pay off the taxes and interest before a statutory one-year redemption period expires. Many bidders for tax-sale property are in it for the 12% interest income on their investment.”

It works like this: A town is only interested in the overdue taxes; a representative attends the auction willing to bid the delinquent amount. Other bidders make their offers starting at least at the taxes due. The winning bid is held in escrow by the town’s attorney for the one year redemption period.

If the owner doesn’t pay the taxes during that period, the town is paid from the auction proceeds, and the winning bidder gets the property. Any escrow balance after taxes and interest go to the owner.

If the owner pays off the taxes and interest at the statutory rate of 12%, the winning bidder gets his/her investment back, plus interest.

In effect, the escrowed amount is a lien on the property. If the property owner can sell the property for more than the winning bid, he/she will receive any balance after taxes, the lien and the interest.

This tax sale is unusual, according to O’Toole. Forty people filled Damon Hall, watching David Valley pay off the delinquency regarding 15 Squirrel Drive, taking it off the auction block as a result.

9 Merritt Road is an unoccupied manufactured home in rough shape sitting among grown-up saplings, trees, bushes and weeds. If it wasn’t for the number on the mailbox, a passerby might not notice it.

The owner, Jeannine Lobdell Smith, died a few years ago, leaving a son and daughter, Sean and Nicky as heirs. They made an agreement, according to O’Toole, whereby Nicky’s nephew could live in the home rent-free, and Nicky would pay the taxes and process the probate and estate so they could take legal ownership.

O’Toole said Sean’s sister apparently didn’t fulfill any of the agreement. No death certificate has been filed, the estate hasn’t been probated, and, as of Thursday, 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 taxes of $7,352.40 remained unpaid.

O’Toole told Sean because he had an interest in the property he was precluded from bidding.

Ben Spencer made the first bid — for the delinquent taxes. Michael Rafus bid $10,000, Dennis Dillon bid $20,000, and Grant Eastman bid $21,000. People started to pay attention.

Then Andrea Ambros bid $30,000. Amy Ashline bid $35,000 on behalf of Green Mountain Pool Plasterers, starting a bidding war. Seventeen bids followed, one from Dennis Dillon and sixteen from Ambros and Ashline, ending with $90,000 bid by Ambros.

One could hear people beginning to breath again.

Ambros told the Mountain Times she expects the Smith families will “get it together and pay off the taxes before the time period is up”, which will leave her with a good interest income.

O’Toole said he calculated the interest at $29.59 per day.

“When I told Sean that on the phone, he told me they were going to pay the taxes off on Friday to avoid the interest,” he said. As of 4 p.m. Friday, the town finance manager said Smith had not appeared.

If she does end up owning the property, Ambos said she has ideas how Hartland Winter Trails, of which she is a director, might make use of it.

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