Foreclosure fees rise

Published 10:16 am Tuesday, July 28, 2009

JACKSON — Tax foreclosure commission fees in Northampton County are now $50 higher.

At their recent meeting, the Board of Northampton County Commissioners approved to increase attorney’s fee from $750 to $800 on a tax foreclosure action.

County Manager Wayne Jenkins presented the decision paper to the commissioners.

According to Jenkins, a review of the cost to the county for tax foreclosures revealed that the foreclosure process was costing the county approximately $50 more in direct cost than the county is collecting per foreclosure.

“We strive to pass all direct cost incurred by the county over to the delinquent taxpayer, because the cost is a result of the taxpayer’s inaction,” said Jenkins.

The last increase came in 2007.

The county’s attorney, Charles Vaughan, is paid by the hour for the foreclosure work per his contract.

However, Jenkins said the county is the recipient of the attorney’s fees which are assessed, awarded and collected.

“It appears to be a disadvantage if you have an individual who wants to retrieve the property or stop the foreclosure,” said Commissioner Virginia Spruill. “The attorney fee would still be there, am I right?”

“I will yield to the county attorney, but once that fee is assessed, it is there and it needs to be satisfied,” said Jenkins.

“Absolutely, so it almost has a hindrance for the taxpayer to retain or retrieve that property,” said Spruill. “It will be an added expense to that person.”

Jenkins said he looked at it the opposite way.

“That $800 fee would certainly be a deterrent for me to allow my property to go into foreclosure,” he said.

“What if they can’t do no better,” asked Commissioner Chester Deloatch.

“Sir, I answer you with all honesty. There’s not a bad heart sitting around this table, and mine certainly is not bad, but we cannot take care of the world,” Jenkins responded.

Spruill said she wanted to make sure that the purpose was not to hinder anyone from trying to retrieve their property.

Jenkins said the purpose is collect the direct cost to the county for bringing the foreclosure action.

Vaughan said it takes him approximately 8-10 hours to do one foreclosure and much of the hike in the fee is related to court costs, publications in newspapers and postage. He added the delinquent taxpayer can notify him if they want to pay off the debt.

“Without the fee?” asked Deloatch.

Vaughan said the fee is assessed once the action is filed.

Spruill motioned to approve the increase in attorney’s fees for foreclosure actions; it was seconded by Commissioner James Hester. The motion passed without objection.