Bidder for tax-acquired property backs out

TREMONT — When the town recently advertised a tax-acquired property for sale to the highest bidder, only one person jumped at the opportunity.

During their Oct. 15 meeting, selectmen awarded the property to the single bidder, a Tremont resident who entered a bid of $20,000 for the property. At the following meeting, Town Manager Chris Saunders informed the board the awarded party was no longer interested in acquiring the property through a quitclaim deed.

Saunders said he had spent time on the phone with the bidder’s lawyer and then with the bidder, trying to convince them to go through with the property sale.

In choosing not to buy the property, the bidder sacrificed a $2,000 deposit, Saunders told selectmen.

The parcel at 989, 1001 and 1005 Tremont Road is rife with a history of multiple liens from state agencies, the town and possibly other parties, so $20,000 for the four acres at 989, 1001 and 1005 Tremont Road ultimately didn’t seem like such a great deal.

Originally, there were two bidders for the property that was offered by the town earlier this summer.

One came from a Portland company called Fars Properties, LLC. Their bid for the property was withdrawn when its lawyer expressed concern that there may not be a clear title.

Town records show it has been at least six years since the town received a tax payment for the property, valued at $282,000. Outstanding taxes and interest accrued on that amount, as of the end of the summer, totaled $19,249.

Had the tax-acquired property sale gone through, the new owner would have received a quitclaim deed from the town for the property. This type of deed signifies the entity releasing the property has the right to do so, but is unable to guarantee there are not other parties with liens on or a financial claim to the property.

Another option when acquiring property is through a warranty deed. Property transferred with a warranty deed guarantees the title to the parcel of land or building is free of any other liens or financial obligations.

In Tremont, as with many municipalities, if a property owner fails to pay their taxes on time, interest begins to accrue on the past-due balance, according to Saunders. Attempts are typically made to set up a payment schedule with property owners whose tax bills are delinquent in order to give them the best possible chance of meeting their obligation.

After proper notice to the landowner and a specified amount of time, the town can file a municipal tax lien on that property. After 18 months has passed and further notice is given to the property owner during that time, the title to the property automatically passes to the town, Saunders explained. That property is now owned by the town.

“Our policy requires us to attempt to enter into a payment agreement with the prior owner,” Saunders said in an email. “If the prior owner fails to abide by the payment agreement, then the board of selectmen must decide whether to retain the property for town use or dispose of it.”

For this particular parcel, selectmen did not set a minimum amount for bidding when they decided to sell the property, Saunders said.

County records note a discharge of mortgage for tax collector’s lien certificate filed on the property May 30, 2018 by Saunders in his role as town treasurer.

There have been other properties that have had late taxes and gone to some point in the lien process, but none that have gone this far, he said in an email.

“I think the town will have to hold onto the property for another year,” Saunders told selectmen at the Oct. 29 meeting.

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.

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