The Decatur County Tax Commissioner’s Office is planning to hold the county’s first-ever mobile home auction, to take care of approximately $160,000 worth of delinquent property tax owed on mobile homes.
The mobile home tax sale is scheduled for June 2, 2015. Tax Commissioner Don Belcher said his office has sent out a letter notifying people and companies who owe delinquent mobile home taxes of the planned sale, to give them a chance to pay their past due balance before then.
Some of the delinquent mobile home taxes extend back to 2008, according to Tax Commissioner records. Belcher said this is because no mobile home tax sale has ever been held in Decatur County. Bills were sent out each year, but the county had no mechanism for collecting the past-due amount through a tax sale. A $75 late fee is added on to the past-due amount each year.
Real property (lots of land and non-mobile residences) can be put up for auction each year if the previous year’s property tax is unpaid. Georgia law says only that the property tax sale has to be held on the first Tuesday of a month, on the county courthouse steps. In Decatur County, the real property auction has traditionally been held in October, after the current year’s tax bills have been sent out in August.
Belcher said not many Georgia counties hold mobile home tax sales, however, because they involve different rules and are more complex.
Belcher gave the example of a person owns a mobile home but is renting the land it is placed on, and they get behind on their mobile home tax. If no one purchases the mobile home at public auction, the landlord could say, ‘I don’t want the mobile home on my property anymore.’ The county government would then be responsible for removing the mobile home and storing it somewhere until it could be re-sold or otherwise disposed of.
Belcher also mentioned a real example in which a man who owned approximately 100 mobile homes passed away. The man’s heirs are not interested in continuing to own the mobile homes. Again, if no one bids on some of the mobile homes, the county could be responsible for going to get the mobile homes.
There’s an important difference between a public auction for real property (non-mobile homes and lots) and one for mobile homes. If a property is sold at auction, the original owner has 12 months to redeem his property from the low bidder. The low bidder can charge up to a 20 percent markup on what he bid for the property in the auction, but if the original owner pays the total, he can retain ownership. In contrast, anyone who places the low bid on a mobile home at an auction immediately takes permanent ownership of the mobile home, as they are considered personal property under Georgia law.
To avoid having some mobile home owners lose their property, Belcher said his goal is to arrange collection of as many past-due mobile home tax bills as possible. If the $160,000 outstanding in March was reduced to say, $30,000 by June, the tax commissioner could cancel the sale as late as June 1. At that point, the cost to advertise and administer the sale might be more than collecting the smaller amount would be worth.
Belcher said he is working with Delinquent Tax Solutions of Macon, Ga. to organize the mobile home tax sale. Cotton Hester, who was formerly the Decatur County tax commissioner before Belcher took office, is Delinquent Tax Solutions’ agent in this part of the state. According to Belcher, Hester has also helped organize a mobile home tax sale in neighboring Grady County.
Below we have compiled the total of outstanding mobile home taxes by year, based on information provided to us by Tax Commissioner Don Belcher. We were inadvertently not provided the statistics for 2014, but they are reflected in the cumulative totals, as of March 17, 2015.
It may be interesting to note that the tax commissioner’s letter advising mobile home owners of the impending tax sale has had some success. During the week ending Friday, March 13, individuals and corporations paid taxes due on 127 mobile homes, spanning the years of 2008-2014. However, those payments still left about $155,000 in delinquent mobile home tax yet to be collected.
Belcher said he and Hester plan to do limited in-person advertisement of the sale within mobile home parks, in an attempt to make sure all mobile home owners are aware of the sale. The full details of the sale will also be published in the county’s legal organ.
|Due (as of 3/17/15)
|Total (all previous years)