Tipline: Foreclosure Warnings in Buffalo Over User Fees

6:11 PM, Nov 23, 2011   |    comments
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 The e-mails and calls came into our Tipline about letters from the city of Buffalo which start out with the heading : Your Property Is Subject To Foreclosure.

 It turns out those letters have gone out to people who owe city taxes, sewer rent, or user fees. They warn the property owner that their property could end up on foreclosure list with the Erie County Clerk's Office.

 But some people say they do not feel they were billed properly to begin with. Some of the confusion may stem from a new billing policy which the city started this year. City Hall now sends out bills on an annual basis for garbage user fees with attached coupons. Some residents may not realize they need to still send payments with those coupons on the due dates. In past years the city would just send out quarterly bills. That may account for some people saying they did not get a bill.

 Mayor Byron Brown tells 2 On Your Side that the letters which mention foreclosure were sent out as a courtesy notice to make sure that people realize the situation. He says their goal is to prevent more people from losing their homes for relatively small amounts of owed fees. The Mayor says they can help people make arrangements for partial payments if need be.

 Brown says they are reviewing the billing policy and there will be more changes announced to protect homeowners. He would not provide any examples.   

 Councilman Michael Kearns of South Buffalo says his office and those of other council members have fielded many calls about the letters. Kearns says Council is also looking at answers including a user fee board which could help people with certain circumstances.    

 Mayor Brown suggests anyone with questions to contact the 3-1-1 Call Center where their concerns will be recorded in a computer system with a call back. Kearns also says people can contact their council members because their staff is working on the problem.  

  The Western New York Law Center has also filed a lawsuit which may affect the city's foreclosure process.   

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