What Happens When the City Doesn’t Tell You that You Owe Taxes!

Buying a House in Lowell, Massachusetts

In 2016, my husband and I bought a small house with a tiny yard on a cute street near the University of Lowell so that our son who has many challenges could live there with roommates while taking engineering courses. My son is on the autism spectrum, with many sensory, social and emotional challenges so we decided that buying the house would be the best option for his success. He had already earned a biology degree but was unable to find a job. He was quite courageous to give engineering school a try….

Massachusetts has a strange policy that I hope can be changed….

Since we closed on our house on January 11, 2016- the tax bills continue to be sent to the address of the previous owner. Naturally, we trusted our real estate attorney to look out for such an odd glitch. The attorney screwed up. The final tax bill owed to Lowell for 2015 and early 2016 was never paid and the reminders went to the disinterested former homeowner.

Now look at the tax bill below. At the lower right hand corner is a small notice that prior year balances are past due and not reflected in this bill….

We were supposed to see that and take action…..

We paid our tax bills for the next 8 years ….. until….

receiving a letter a week ago stating that our house was about to be foreclosed !!! We immediately went to town hall and paid $3,775.00! $1,500.00 of this amount was interest accrued at 94 cents/day over 8 years….

We have the option of contacting the negligent closing real estate attorney – or suing the city to get our money money….

But at 70 years of age, still taking care of an adult 35 year old with huge complex challenges and coping with the related stress- we have chosen to accept this fate….


Not everybody has a spare $3,775.00 available for such an emergency…..

The city hall clerk told us that they are helping some less fortunate homeowners set up payment installments to avoid foreclosure. Obviously,

  1. Massachusetts can change this silly law so that we would have received a delinquency letter in a timely manner- as in 20216- not 2024….
  2. The city hall clerk said that all it takes is a legislator to write a bill and get it passed. But this issue affects few people and then those affected may be more focused on saving their home than getting laws changed. Its not a glamorous bill that huge constituents will applaud, but it would be an ethical bill.
  3. If that delinquency letter had gotten lost in the mail and we never read it- we would have not only lost our house- but also ALL the equity gained over the past 8 years!!!

We currently use our Lowell house as a 2nd home, an urban getaway that we are privileged to be able to afford…. It enables me to cope with caregiver stress… We love Lowell – the diversity, the culture, the university, the river, the ethnic restaurants…… But we don’t love the Lowell bureaucracy….

The following article about Equity Theft is from the Lowell Sun:

Sharing is Caring!

  1. Check with your state to see if residents are at risk of “equity theft”.

2. Check with your state to see if the tax bills are sent to the previous owner until the following January 1 after your purchase date….

3. Contact your state representative or perhaps share this blog post and find out if you are at risk.

4. Talk about “equity theft” with friends, elected leaders…. it’s not-well known- a social wrong that can be fixed- and while Massachusetts is super busy finding housing for immigrants and hopefully, addressing the homeless mentally ill as well as plain old poor people- lets prevent “equity theft” that would worsen the unsheltered crisis….

Special Needs Moms have enough stress and expenses – so let’s avoid this happening to anyone else….. share and care….

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