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One in five District owners is delinquent in property taxes, according to city Chief Financial Officer Nat Gandhi.  This startling stat was revealed last week in an Associated Press story, but the piece didn’t get into the nitty gritty of just what happens next.

Well for a cautionary tale, look at Hagerstown, Maryland—-the local county government is slated to auction 170 properties there today. All of the owners are delinquent on their taxes. Originally, 315 properties were advertised in early June as part of the sale.

Obviously, the property-owners are given plenty of advance notice that they’ve, oh, forgotten to send in a little something. They receive notices in July, January, February, March and April. Then, in June, their homes are advertised for sale. After the auction, the property doesn’t immediately fall into the hands of the highest bidder, according to the story:

The high bidder on each property will receive a certificate of sale and will have the right to file for foreclosure if the debtor fails to pay the taxes owed within six months, Hershey said…“After the sale, most people come in and correct the problem,” Hershey said. “Ninety percent (of the properties) typically are redeemed.”

Image by Darrow Montgomery