For decades, the District has placed liens on properties when homeowners failed to pay their tax bills, then sold those liens to investors who could take the homes through foreclosure if the owners didn’t repay the debt with interest. But under the watch of local leaders, the program has morphed into an often predatory system of debt collection for aggressive, out-of-town investors who foreclosed on houses over debts as small as $44, then sold them for large profits, a Washington Post investigation found.
Bennie Coleman lost his house over a $134 property tax bill. The retired Marine sergeant watched as movers carted out his furniture and clothing, then shuttered the house he had bought with cash two decades earlier. "I have nothing," he later recalled. Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post Buy Photo