Homes in Columbia town limits proceed into foreclosure

Published 11:06 am Tuesday, December 12, 2017

“Twenty-eight properties within the Columbia town limits are in some state of foreclosure proceeding,” Town Manager Rhett White informed the board of aldermen December 4.

Foreclosure proceedings prevent the town from addressing safety and appearance concerns about these properties, including issuing demolition orders, until the properties are redeemed by the owner or sold for taxes at the courthouse door, he explained.

The foreclosure process cannot be interrupted without having to start the process over again, in part because the property description has changed, White said the town’s tax attorney, Mark Bardill of Trenton, stated.

Two foreclosed properties have been of particular concern — 414 Virginia Avenue (home of the late Jean Spencer) and 302 Kohloss Street (owned by Perlene Spencer & others). Both of these buildings were badly damaged by fire before the foreclosure process against them began.

White reported that Bardill said in late November that the Virginia Avenue property has received final notice of service and he expects an order to proceed in January. This would mean a February or March posting for sale with completion of sale in May or June.

Bardill described the Kohloss Street property as “troublesome” with multiple owners still not identified and papers to be served, White stated.

Properties may be purchased by anyone at the courthouse sale, the town manager explained. If no one bids, or if the bids are less than the taxes (town and county) owed, the property will be sold to the county and town for the taxes due.

If that occurs the town can act to have the house demolished with debris removed and add that cost to the amount owed on the property. The town and county can declare the property surplus and advertise it for sale.

Note that the town does not want to own and maintain additional property, White said. It should be in private hands and on the tax books.

He also noted that many of the properties in foreclosure include derelict houses or mobile homes that no longer have any real value.

And some lots are too small to meet existing lot size requirements of zoning setbacks, making them unbuildable.

Tax foreclosure is a judicial matter, and the new mayor and board of aldermen can only continue to chafe at its often glacial pace.