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It is Your Home and with it Comes Your Property Taxes

by Vince Bushell

If you own your home, your City of Milwaukee property taxes for 2002 are due on January 31, 2003. If you have a mortgage on your home, the taxes may be part of an escrow account that the bank holds for you and uses to pay your taxes for you. Then you have to do little more than make your monthly mortgage payments, and the bank is collecting your tax money for eventual payment. But if there is no mortgage or escrow account at the bank to pay the taxes, it is your responsibility to pay them on time. You may choose a payment plan with the City that spreads the payments out over the year. It is best to plan ahead and avoid interest payments, paying your complete bill by the due date each year. Caution: If you are late in paying your taxes, either in full or as part of a payment plan with the City, your tax bill can be declared delinquent. The only way to have this delinquent status removed is to pay the bill in full for the year or years that the back taxes are owed. Partial payment after your bill has been marked delinquent does not remove this status. If you do not pay your property taxes, eventually foreclosure action can be taken against you, and you risk losing your home, or at a minimum, going through the hassle of stopping the foreclosure action by making payment arrangements. During the time the property taxes were past due, the City adds interest at the rate 12% per year to the bill. This is not a good deal. A bank or credit union would probably be glad to give you a home equity loan to pay those taxes at half that interest rate. Keeping your property taxes paid up will keep the City from foreclosing on your house, but there are other benefits as well. Low-income households, including elderly people living on Social Security, may want to apply for a City-sponsored low interest loan or forgivable loan to repair their homes. There is a limited amount of money available to do this. If your property taxes are not paid or are listed as delinquent, you cannot apply for these loans or grants. Next month the housing page will have a story on tax foreclosures and how to avoid them. It will focus on programs designed to help the elderly stay in their homes and avoid financial problems related to debt and failure to pay property taxes. Riverwest Currents – Volume 1 – Issue 11 – December 2002
by Vince Bushell