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Foreclosure process underway

GATESVILLE – If you have failed to pay your Gates County property taxes over the past two years, the best advice is to have your checkbook handy.

With the blessing of the Gates County Board of Commissioners, the county’s Tax Department has launched a campaign that aggressively targets delinquent taxpayers.

At a recent meeting, the commissioners opted to give the Tax Department the green light to seek payments from taxpayers whose bills were two years in arrears. Previously, the Tax Department waited three years to begin foreclosure proceedings against delinquent taxpayers.

According to Gates County Tax Collector Renee McGinnis, her office has entered into a contract with Travis Ellis of Ellis & Skinner, an Edenton-based law firm that will handle the majority of the foreclosure proceedings in Gates County.

“We will start with the most delinquent taxes owed,” McGinnis said. “Some of these have already reached the point of foreclosure and we will now proceed with those.”

Following procedure, the Gates County Tax Department will contact the delinquent taxpayer, giving them a certain number of days to pay before it goes to the foreclosure attorney. The Tax Department will also contact adjoining landowners concerning the impending foreclosure.

If payment is not received within the allotted time frame, the paperwork is forwarded to the foreclosure attorney. McGinnis stated that Ellis will also send out letters asking for payment. Those failing to respond will become involved in legal action.

“Once it goes into foreclosure, any fees incurred in the process, by the lawyer or through the means of legal advertising, goes against the taxpayer and will be added to the amount they owe,” McGinnis noted. “The taxpayer still has the right to pay just before the property goes up for sale on the courthouse steps.”

Responding as to why Gatesville lawyer Pitt Godwin Jr., who also serves as the attorney for the County of Gates, was not involved in the foreclosure proceedings, McGinnis said he actually was to some degree.

“Mr. Godwin will still handle some of the foreclosures,” she said. “Because Mr. Godwin lives and practices law in Gates County, and has for a number of years, there are exceptions to what he can handle in the way of property foreclosures for the County of Gates. That is due to Mr. Godwin, as an attorney, may already handle the legal matters of those the county is taking into the foreclosure process. In those cases, that would be a conflict of interest, thus excusing Mr. Godwin from representing both the county and the client.”