Last updated: August 19. 2013 10:29PM - 4946 Views
By - jandes@timesleader.com

Luzerne County's free-and-clear back-tax auction Thursday is expected to draw a crowd similar to this packed group of bidders at the county's August 2011 sale.
Luzerne County's free-and-clear back-tax auction Thursday is expected to draw a crowd similar to this packed group of bidders at the county's August 2011 sale.
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A total 130 bidders have registered for Thursday’s popular free-and-clear Luzerne County back-tax auction so far, and more are expected to sign up before Wednesday’s 4:30 p.m. deadline.

Free-and-clear auctions typically draw large crowds of bidders because back taxes, mortgages and other liens tied to the properties are forgiven. Most properties will be listed at starting bids under $1,000 to recoup only the tax claim office costs to bring the parcels to auction.

Properties are eligible for auction if real estate taxes are unpaid for two years.

The inventory of properties won’t be finalized until the sale begins at 10 a.m. in the county courthouse because property owners have until the morning of the sale to get their properties removed by paying, obtaining court orders or filing for bankruptcy.

The list of properties had been reduced from around 400 to 268 as of Monday afternoon.

Keystone Garden Estates, an assisted-living facility in Larksville, is one of the largest properties that was still in the sale Monday due to a back-tax debt of $367,919 dating back to 2007. The property owner has maintained the taxes will be paid through a refinancing before the sale.

The Four Seasons Golf Club in Exeter is out of the sale because owners Amita and Ragesh Patel recently paid $194,600 in taxes owed from 2010 through 2012, according to Northeast Revenue Service LLC, the county’s tax-claim operator.

A judge agreed to temporarily remove the former Hottle’s Restaurant on South Main Street in Wilkes-Barre from auction because property owners William and Lynn Kravits said they are transitioning to new management of the once thriving dining establishment, which closed in the fall of 2010 after 73 years in business, Northeast Revenue said.

William and Lynn Kravits owe $26,717 in property taxes from 2010 through 2012, county records show.

In addition to Hottle’s, 66 properties have been removed from the sale due to court orders or concerns that all lien holders have not been sufficiently notified of the sale. These properties will be listed in a special free-and-clear auction on Nov. 14 if taxes are not paid.

Among the other properties continued to the Nov. 14 auction, according to Northeast Revenue’s records:

• The former Coal Crackers bar and restaurant on Alter Street in Hazleton. Owner Carol Sheman owes $12,881 in taxes from 2010 to the present.

• Six properties owned by Hazle Township businessman James Lagana, including his 6,600-square-foot mansion on Butler Terrace Drive in the township, which is assessed at $675,000. Lagana owes $38,000 in taxes on the residence from 2010 through 2012.

• A 2,700-square-foot residential property on Wyoming Road in Dallas Township assessed at $481,900. Frank M. Henry Jr. owns the 10.3-acre property and owes $31,942 in taxes from 2010 to the present.

A list of available parcels and information on bidding is available at www.luzernecountytaxclaim.com.

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