Michigan county seizes home after one missed tax bill; makes $80K profit

Deborah Calley weeps as she discusses the seizure of her home. (Source: WITI)
Deborah Calley weeps as she discusses the seizure of her home.  (Source: WITI)
Deborah Calley weeps as she discusses the seizure of her home. (Source: WITI)

RICHLAND, MI — A disabled mother and her children were tossed from their home by the government after missing one property tax bill, despite owning the home free-and-clear.

Deborah Calley, a mother of two daughters, paid $164,000 cash for her dream home in 2010. The home was chosen because of convenient location and accessibility; a perfect location for her as she slowly recovers from debilitating injuries following a car accident a few years ago.

The family’s dream home became a nightmare when the Kalamazoo County government declared it to be foreclosed earlier in 2014, leaving the Calleys homeless. Local bureaucrats alleged that three years ago, Ms. Calley did not pay for the privilege to live in the county, a so-called “property tax.” Thus, the government stripped Calley of her home and property.

Ms. Calley is devastated, and claims that she had no idea about the missed property tax bill from 2011, and that she received no warning of the impending property seizure.

“When I paid the taxes in 2012 right there in Richland, no one said, ‘Oh, well you still owe money for 2011,'” said Ms. Calley to WITI. “So, I didn’t really have a clue. I thought I was right on time.”

The disabled mother is in disbelief that the government could take away property that she owned outright because of a tax bill totaling less than $2,000.

“If I had a mortgage, a bank never would’ve let that happen,” said Calley, referring to the single missed payment. “It was a mistake.”

“My life has been turned upside down because of this,” Ms. Calley sobbed. “I had to send my youngest daughter, who’s still in school, to live with her father so she can have a home, because I don’t know if I have a home anymore.”

Ms. Calley offered to pay back-taxes to settle the bill that the county alleges that she owes, but the profiteers of the seizure claim that it is now too late. Adding to the family’s grief is the fact that the foreclosed house has already been auctioned, with the highest bid totaling over $80,000. Barring judicial intervention, the county will keep the proceeds of the auction and the Calley family will get nothing.

The plight of the Calley family serves as a grim reminder of the fragility of property rights in America, and the true nature of property taxation. When citizens are obligated to pay perpetual sums of money to avoid the seizure of their rightly-owned property, they can never consider themselves anything greater than tenants on land controlled by the government.

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