The Washington Post

Emergency tax sale reforms pass D.C. Council

Carmen Starks, 64, was erroneously charged $8.61 in interest on her property tax bill because of a delay at the D.C. tax office in processing her payment. The interest charge forced her into a court battle to save her home on V Street NW. (Michael S. Williamson / The Washington Post)

The D.C. Council voted overwhelmingly Tuesday afternoon to institute emergency reforms to the city’s process of auctioning property tax debts to private investors — a system that has seen abuses allowing homeowners to lose their properties over small tax debts.

Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) cited a recent Washington Post series on the system in spurring his bill, which sets a legal minimum of $2,000 for the tax debts offered at auction; freezes the sale of homes belonging to seniors, veterans and the disabled; and limits the fees that debt buyers may charge to $1,500.

The measure passed on a 12-to-0 vote, but Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) abstained, explaining he was uncomfortable with the entire practice of auctioning homeowners’ tax debts to private parties. “Why do we even allow this practice?” he asked.

Evans said a broader look at the tax sale system will be part of the council’s deliberations on a permanent bill, which Evans introduced earlier Tuesday.

By a 13-to-0 vote, the council also endorsed an emergency measure from Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) that ordered the city’s finance office to examine 10 years of tax sales and determine whether any homeowners who lost their homes after having small debts auctioned deserve some compensation from the city.

Pedro Ribeiro, a spokesman for Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D), said he expected the mayor to sign the bills as soon as they are transmitted. Emergency bills are effective for 90 days once signed.

Gray and Chief Financial Office Natwar M. Gandhi on Friday announced a package of reforms in response to the Post’s stories, including canceling the sales of dozens of homeowner tax debts auctioned by the city in July.

Mike DeBonis covers Congress and national politics for The Washington Post. He previously covered D.C. politics and government from 2007 to 2015.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
What can babies teach students?
Unconventional warfare with a side of ale
A veteran finds healing on a dog sled
Play Videos
A fighter pilot helmet with 360 degrees of sky
Is fencing the answer to brain health?
Scenes from Brazil's Carajás Railway
Play Videos
How a hacker group came to Washington
The woman behind the Nats’ presidents ‘Star Wars’ makeover
How hackers can control your car from miles away
Play Videos
Philadelphia's real signature sandwich
Full disclosure: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1 ghoul
Europe's migrant crisis, explained
Next Story
Mike DeBonis · September 17, 2013

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.