New Bedford woman loses home to tax bill

NEW BEDFORD — A New Bedford woman is suing the city and a Boston-based debt collection agency for violating her rights after her Valentine Street home was sold under her.

Deborah Foss filed a lawsuit in Bristol Superior Court on March 29, claiming the city sold a tax debt valued at less than $10,000 to debt collector Tallage Davis.

According to his complaint, over the course of the year, Foss’ debt skyrocketed to over $24,000, reaching around $30,000 shortly thereafter.

The lawsuit goes on to say that last February the company evicted her, then a month later sold the house for $242,000 and kept all the profits.

She has since been homeless and living in her car, the complaint states, noting that all Foss received from the sale was forgiveness of her $30,000 debt.

Pacific Legal Foundation, a California-based nonprofit, is providing legal advice to Foss in its lawsuit against the city and Tallage Davis.

The debt collection company is the same one involved in a 2021 lawsuit for foreclosing on a family’s Dartmouth home in the same way, getting a $330,000 home in exchange for the cancellation of a debt of $13,000.

This family’s lawsuit was later settled.

Foss lost about $210,000 in equity in the proceedings, or about 800% of the debt it owed.

His complaint alleges that what happened to him violates constitutional protections against taking property without just compensation and against imposing excessive fines.

According to Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Joshua Polk, who is representing Foss in the case, most U.S. states prohibit storing any products from these recipes.

But Massachusetts is not one of them.

About $56 million is levied on state residents each year, according to an article by Professor Ralph Clifford of UMass Law School.

Lawmakers are trying to fix the problem.

A bill currently being proposed in the state House of Representatives would require better notice of foreclosures and limit the profits of tax security holders to the amount owed.

New Bedford Ward 3 Councilman Hugh Dunn said he would raise the issue at an upcoming committee meeting, in hopes of ending the city’s practice of selling tax debts to corporations. “aggressive debt collectors”.

“You see people losing their homes with $2,000 in debt, and the company keeps everything,” he told WBSM News, calling the practice “legalized theft.”

“It really touches our most vulnerable residents,” Dunn said. “It’s just despicable.”

A statement from Tallage Davis attorney Dan Hill notes that the Valentine Street property in question was owned by a trust and that after purchasing the property in 2015, the trust never paid a tax bill.

According to the company’s statement, Tallage Davis tried to help the residents move out, signing an agreement with them to vacate the house by November 30, 2021 “in exchange for a monetary settlement.”

“The sisters did not honor this agreement,” Hill wrote.

In December, according to the company, an inspection of the home revealed an oil spill in the basement requiring cleanup, for which the company incurred more than $75,000 in costs.

Hill added that after the residents left the house in February, they received the agreed-upon settlement funds.

“Tallage has followed all legal requirements governing the process of seizing the tax lien and cleaning up hazardous waste from the property,” the statement concludes.

New Bedford city officials declined to comment on ongoing litigation, but said more information on the number of tax liens sold each year to debt collectors — and in particular Tallage Davis — is forthcoming. to come.

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