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By Randi PierceStaff Writer
The annual delinquent tax notices for real property, printed in this week’s Public Notices portion of The SUN, connect with the overall economic health of the area, rising and falling in connection to changes in the economy and housing market.
This year, similar to last, there are fewer printed delinquent tax notices, and levels are again reaching those seen prior to the housing and economic crisis, according to Archuleta County Treasurer Betty Diller.
Diller said that, in 2008, the tax sale had about 900 properties — about double of the prior year’s numbers. Over the years following, tax notices were being published for about 1,200 accounts.
This year, however, Diller said there are 474 delinquent accounts for real property — a number considered reasonable.
“This is a pretty reasonable number or average number the county has experienced before,” Diller said , adding that she doesn’t believe the number will continue to fall.
Diller said a variety of factors likely contributed to the decreased number of delinquent accounts.
“I think a lot of the problem was with foreclosures on second homes,” Diller said.
Oftentimes, when a property goes through foreclosure, the mortgage company will pay the taxes and the property will be escrowed. But second homes and vacant land are not always escrowed, meaning there may not always be a vehicle for the mortgage companies to pay the taxes, Diller explained.
Also contributing are the properties that have gone through the Treasurer’s Deed process. Treasurer’s Deeds are available for tax liens that are at least three years old.
Diller said the office has seen a record number of applications for the deeds in 2012. By the time a deed is granted, the taxes on the deeded property are made current.
Additionally, county-held liens are not present on the delinquent list because those taxes are being endorsed by the county.
Currently, the county holds 194 active liens on properties that did not sell at a tax lien sale, Diller said.
“There’s a high number of county-held liens that date back to just a couple of years ago,” Diller said, some of which carry special assessments put by taxing authorities on the lien that have made them unattractive to investors.
Another contributing factor, Diller explained, are people seeking and receiving loan modifications on their mortgages, making the property more affordable and the taxes easier to pay. Diller said many foreclosures have been halted due to loan modifications, as well.
Other foreclosures have sold at market, Diller said, with owners paying the taxes.
“We continue to work closely with the assessor’s office to evaluate accounts and make sure that they are taxed appropriately and resolve any problems,” Diller said.