Imagine you are a 90-year-old woman and you receive a letter from Middle Township, N.J., with the heading Tax Sale Notice. The letter says it is a "Notice of Lien Sale of Property for non-payment of taxes, assessments and other municipal charges" — and that lien sale notice is for your home!
That letter, dated November 18 and sent to my neighbor, cites the date November 16, 2015, which is five days past the 10 day extension allowed for payment of property taxes in Middle Township. My neighbor forgot to pay her taxes on time and the township is now threatening to sell her home, the only thing of value she and her veteran husband have left.
Yes, the township has a right to expect residents to pay their property taxes on time and gives them 10 extra days to do so. The township also has financial obligations that it has to meet on a timely basis, but there has to be a better way to let people know that they forgot to pay their taxes rather than scaring a 90-year-old woman and others half to death!
To add insult to injury, Middle Township's Tax Collector Sandra Beasley listed a "mailing fee" of $50 for sending my neighbor the letter that informed her of a lien sale on her property. And, depending on when you pay your taxes, the penalty for late payment could be 18% or more. For my neighbor, that could have been an additional $180.
If you received a white Tax Sale Notice you will probably get a follow-up yellow notice basically saying the same thing — even though you have paid your taxes and late fee. As the folks at the Tax Office explained, the yellow tax notice is just part of a process that culminates in your home being listed in the local newspaper as part of a tax sale. So if you have people coming by to check out your home, you'll know why.
I don't know how many other Middle Township residents got lien sale notices because they forgot the payment date or misplaced the 4th quarter "coupon" that tells them how much tax they owe for that quarter, but I saw another neighbor with a sheepish expression at the tax office when I went to pay my 90-year-old neighbor's taxes. With the bulk of Cape May County's permanent residents being senior citizens and/or veterans, I assume there were many others who received tax sale notices.
And, by the way, the Tax Sale Notice stated that the only late payments that would be accepted "prior to the tax sale" were certified checks, cashier checks, money orders and cash. No regular checks.
As I walked away from the Tax Collector's office with my neighbor's unaccepted regular check, I thought of that famous line from the movie Network, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!"
Beau Weisman , Editor