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Blogs | March, 13 2024

Tax Sale Prevention to Preserve Housing – HBs 16, 54, 519

Several bills pending in the Maryland legislature aim to prevent tax sales, thereby ensuring that vulnerable, low-income homeowners do not lose their homes for small sums of overdue property taxes. Three of those bills are summarized here. 

HB 16. Titled Tax Sales – Homeowner Protection Program – Funding. Sponsored by Delegate Kaiser. 

The Maryland legislature previously created the Homeowner Protection Program (HPP), with the goal of assisting homeowners to pay their property taxes, avoid a tax sale on their homes, and remain in their homes. The HPP provides a loan to eligible homeowners facing a tax sale to pay off their property tax delinquency and initiates a payment plan to repay the load over three years. 

The HPP is administered by the State Tax Sale Ombudsman. This legislation would strengthen the HPP and the Tax Sale Ombudsman. It would provide a stream of funding for the HPP by imposing a $15 fee on each tax sale purchaser, with the fee revenues credited toward HPP. 

The bill also requires each property tax collector to include with each property tax bill a separate insert, to be designed by the State Tax Sale Ombudsman, that describes the HPP and encourages taxpayers to make a voluntary donation to the Program. 

A hearing on HB 16 was scheduled for February 1, 2024, at 1 p.m. At last check, it had not been cross-filed, and there were no hearings scheduled. 

HB 54. Titled Property Tax – Transfer to Heir – Payment Plans. Sponsored by Delegate Atterberry

This bill requires the State Tax Sale Ombudsman to create and operate an installment payment program available to any homeowner for the payment of property taxes. The installment payment program must allow a homeowner to (1) make advance payments of taxes; (2) make payments of taxes currently due; or (3) make payments of taxes in arrears.

The bill also authorizes counties and municipalities to establish installment payment programs for taxes in arrears on any residential property. 

Finally, the bill provides an exemption – for transfers of residential property from an estate of a decedent to an heir – from the requirement that all property taxes, assessments, and other charges due on a property be paid prior to a transfer if the heir enters into a payment plan.

A hearing was scheduled for February 6, 2024, at 1 pm. As of last check, it was not cross-filed and there were no hearings scheduled. 

SB 519 / HB 721. Titled Baltimore City – Tax Sales – Owner-Occupied Residential Property. Sponsored in the Senate by Senator McCray, and in the  House by Delegate Boyce. 

This bill authorizes the Baltimore City tax collector to withhold any owner-occupied residential property from a tax sale. This would change existing law, which, with certain exceptions, requires a county tax collector to sell all property in the county on which tax is in arrears. 

One of the current exceptions applies to Baltimore City. Specifically, under existing law, the tax collector is required to withhold from sale owner-occupied residential property when the total taxes on the property, including interest and penalties, amount to less than $750. This bill would allow the tax collector to decline to sell any owner-occupied property from a tax sale. 

A hearing was scheduled in the Senate for February 7, 2024, at 2 pm. A hearing is scheduled in the House for February 20, 2024, at 1 pm.