Potential buyers can land properties free-and-clear of back taxes

Last updated: November 12. 2013 12:08AM - 5244 Views
By - jandes@civitasmedia.com



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Patrick and Anna Regan bought a Plains Township townhouse for $100,000 in February 1990 and haven’t paid property taxes since, Luzerne County records show.


But after more than two decades of tax avoidance, their only option is to pay all taxes owed if they want to keep the property because the townhouse is listed in Thursday’s free-and-clear, back-tax auction.


The Regans owe $142,582 but dodged back-tax auctions by getting on a payment plan they later failed to honor and filed four bankruptcies, officials say.


Northeast Revenue Service LLC, the county’s tax-claim operator, convinced a judge to ban further tax sale removals of the property due to bankruptcy filings. The company retains an attorney who specializes in bankruptcies to crack down on stagnant or questionable bankruptcies that keep properties out of sales.


The public will have an opportunity to buy the 3-bedroom structure on Clarks Lane with all back taxes cleared and bids starting at $2,066. The 2,000-square-foot property is assessed at $167,400.


The Regans could not be reached for comment.


Properties are supposed to be listed for sale if real estate taxes are unpaid for two years unless the owners obtain court orders, pay off the debt, enter a repayment plan or file for bankruptcy.


Around 70 properties are listed in Thursday’s auction, which was scheduled so bidders have an opportunity to acquire eligible properties without waiting until an annual free-and-clear sale in the summer.


Thursday’s inventory may shrink if property owners pay or get removed from the sale. For example, property owner Robert Nemeth, who has three southern county properties in the auction, has filed a court petition asking a judge to grant more time, maintaining he has a buyer for the properties, officials said.


Hazle Township businessman James Lagana has seven properties in the sale, including his Butler Township mansion atop a scenic overlook, but he has filed court petitions to get other properties he owned removed from past sales. The 6,600-square-foot mansion on 1.5 acres is assessed at $675,000. Lagana owes about $39,000 in back taxes from 2010 through 2012, and bids would start at $1,618 at the free-and-clear auction.


The former Hottle’s Restaurant on South Main Street in Wilkes-Barre was still listed in the sale when the courthouse closed for a three-day weekend Friday.


The eatery closed in 2010 after 73 years in business and will be listed at a starting bid of $830 Thursday unless the owners — William and Lynn Kravits — pay $27,178 in taxes owed for 2010 through 2012.


One of the listed properties expected to draw multiple bidders is a 900-square-foot, one-story ranch home on half an acre at 36 Circle Drive in Kingston Township, with bids starting at $810. The two-bedroom property, owned by the trustees for Walter and Betty Heck, is assessed at $102,300.


Around 25 properties also are scheduled for a special first-stage upset sale in Thursday’s auction, which begins at 10 a.m. at the courthouse. Upset sales are less popular because liens and back taxes are still attached to the properties, though properties with no outstanding mortgages may draw bidders.


Information on Thursday’s auction and bidding is available at www.luzernecountytaxclaim.com.

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