Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Delinquent Tax Document Provides More Questions Than Answers
Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.
Every year on the City of Minneapolis website, a list of tax-delinquent property owners gets published. The list can be a bellwether for up-and-coming slumlords, or can be a way to find out which properties are owned by known bad actors (since the city's website doesn't allow for the public to search by owner name). The 2012 list isn't out yet, but 2011 shows a common pattern many on the northside hadn't noticed before. There is frequently a different "billpayer" than the taxpayer/property owner. Why would this be? Friends and neighbors, some of whom are more knowledgeable in housing intricacies than I am, haven't been able to figure this out.
Our first thought was that the difference in names indicated...
...that the taxpayer had sold the property on contract for deed, even if it was later reclaimed after a canceled contract. Given the rise in slumlords using contracts for deed to avoid rental requirements, the taxpayer/billpayer switch might be one way to see which landlords are going down that path.
But when I researched some of the properties and owners at the records department of the Hennepin County Government Center, there weren't contracts for deed filed for the properties in question. Scratch that.
In the same vein, we wondered if perhaps these were un-recorded contracts. In Minnesota, it is incumbent on the buyer to record the purchase, and unscrupulous sellers will take advantage of less sophisticated buyers by not mentioning this to them. When you're operating in the shadows, the fewer traces of what's happening, the better. When both parties are shady, such transfers of ownership interest go unrecorded with even more frequency.
But if that were the case here, then what's triggering the system to recognize that a different person than the previously known owner is liable for the bill? Something is still missing.
A super-nerdy possibility arose: What if the billpayer bought up the back tax amount from the current taxpayer, in an attempt to gain a toehold to property interest? (After a while, the person who paid the back taxes could start their own forfeiture process.) But this practice isn't available in Minnesota.
The most likely scenario we've come up with is that the billpayers are previous or current renters. Maybe they got stuck with the water bill. Even then, that appears unlikely, as the water bill stays with the property and not with a specific party. (Horror stories abound about new homeowners who were unaware of this technicality and got stuck with a tremendous bill shortly after closing.)
So we are still left grasping at straws. How are the taxpayer and billpayer connected here? Once that is known, how could that knowledge help us understand the behavior of the particular species slumicus erus rex? If any readers know, please share.
In the meantime, I ran a search of this document using the names of four of our most notorious problem property owners: Mahmood Khan, Bashir Moghul, Keith Reitman, and Stephen Meldahl. Reitman continued his claim to fame of "not the best, not the worst," in that he had delinquent taxes but none in the nature described here. All of the other three had at least a few such cases. So I am publishing the tally of the past due amounts attributed to the taxpayer, the same category attributed to the mysterious yet eponymous billpayer, and the names of those billpayers as well.
The document isn't searchable by our friendly Google-bots, so hopefully putting the names of these people in a blog format will generate some results when they search for their own name. To be clear, I am not even insinuating that these folks have done anything untoward at this time. They may not even be aware that they are listed as a billpayer, and while those amounts are often quite low, a few total in the thousands of dollars. Bear in mind, this is just for 2011 taxes, although the amounts could be reflective of previous years as well. But the list shouldn't be considered the sum total of back taxes owed. The final disclaimer is that these amounts were past due and may be paid by now. With all that out of the way, here goes:
Bashir owed $5,409.97 in back taxes under his own name. Another $2,223.50 is owed on his properties, but in different billpayer names. Those names are:
Entrust Midwest LLC
Hennepin Forfeited Land
Next Level One Transportation
Khan owed$12,445.86 on his own. Other billpayers owed almost an equal amount, $12,187.21. They were:
Robert Lee Collins Jr
Chasity J Donnell
Manoucher Rastankhani, Rastamkhani
Frererico B Rio
Keon Cook Sr.
Kimberly Sherri Jackson
Donald R Ford
Jessie Starks Jr.
Kimberly Sherri Jackson
Terry A Lewis
And finally we have Stephen Meldahl, who takes the cake for back taxes owed. He had a tally of $10,280.63, but other billpayers racked up almost $31,000 on his behalf. Those lucky folks are:
Brady S Robinson
Rich Harper Jr
Inter Savings Bank
Messerschmidt Holdings Inc.
What does this mean for north Minneapolis? Time, and hopefully information shared here, will tell.