Clallam commissioners updated on annual foreclosure process; seven parcels sold

PORT ANGELES — The Clallam County Treasurer’s Office sold seven of 11 foreclosed parcels that were auctioned Dec. 9 for a combined $71,236, ending a yearlong process required of the county, commissioners learned Monday.

This year, the owners of 733 parcels received notices of foreclosure seeking taxes that were delinquent going back to 2013, according to the Treasurer’s Office.

Certificates of delinquency were filed in court Sept. 14 naming 54 property owners who had not paid at least the oldest year’s taxes.

Of those parcels, 43 were redeemed before the sale, meaning the owner paid all the taxes they owed or qualified for an exemption or tax deferral.

“The Clallam County Treasurer’s Office works very hard to locate and contact delinquent taxpayers and ensure they are aware of their options,” Treasurer Selinda Barkhuis said in a memo to the board.

“These efforts are reflected in the low ratio of ‘Properties sold at auction’ compared with ‘Notices of foreclosure sent to taxpayers.’ ”

Barkhuis provided a summary of the annual foreclosure process in the commissioners’s work session.

She included nine years worth of foreclosure data, saying 2016 was an average year for the number of notices that went out and the number of parcels sold.

“It was somewhere near the middle as far as properties that we started with and properties we ended up selling,” Barkhuis told the board.

Barkhuis, a second-term treasurer, said there were some “interesting issues” with this year’s foreclosures.

A parcel containing a Class A water system that serves more than 90 properties that was facing foreclosure was redeemed the day before the sale, she said.

“We learned a lot, including the fact that there’s nothing that would allow me to even take that property off the foreclosure list,” Barkhuis said at the briefing.

“I am required to sell these [properties].”

Immediately after the auction, the county was served with two writs of garnishment competing for the same surplus funds from the sale of a parcel in the Four Seasons neighborhood, Barkhuis said.

The Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is drafting an interpleader action to ask a Superior Court judge to determine who gets the money, Barkhuis said.

“We have no opinion as to who should get these funds,” Barkhuis said. “We’re out of it.”

The annual foreclosure process begins in February when the Treasurer’s Office sends letters to property owners who are three years delinquent on their taxes.

These property owners can avoid foreclosure by paying the oldest year’s taxes prior to the certified mailings in September.

“We try to get as many of these people to at least pay the oldest and keep out of that certified mailing,” Barkhuis said.

Commissioner Mark Ozias said foreclosures are “not one of the more pleasant duties of county government in general, or of the treasurer, specifically.”

Barkhuis agreed.

“Foreclosing on property is a very difficult duty, but it is essential to the financial stability of the taxing districts that rely on the County Treasurer to collect their property tax revenues and assessments, to pay bond payments, payroll and other obligations,” Barkhuis said in an executive summary to her briefing.

The Dec. 9 auction had a “full room” of 25 registered bidders, only 13 of whom bid on a parcel, Barkhuis told commissioners. There were six purchasers.

The parcels that sold had a combined $20,166 in minimum bids for taxes, penalties and interest. The $51,069 surplus goes to representatives of the owners of the seven parcels.

Properties that do not sell at the auction are deeded to the county as tax title property.

“Most of the time, these parcels are small, low value,” Barkhuis said.

Barkhuis said she planned to brief commissioners on personal property tax collections in early February.

“There’s obviously nothing forcing you to take the time to educate us and educate the greater community about some of these aspects of your role,” Ozias told Barkhuis.

“I can tell you that I really appreciate it, and I particularly appreciate with regard to the subject at hand today you and your staff’s ability to handle something that’s so potentially personal, so potentially devastating for citizens and individuals out there with such compassion and such professionalism.

“This work, and the way that you and your office are going about it, is a credit to you and reflects very positively upon the county in general,” Ozias said.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

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