Tax Lien Sales: The 'Other' Foreclosure Problem Plagues Elderly Homeowners

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John Rao, staff attorney with the law center and author of the report, "The Other Foreclosure Crisis: Property Tax Lien Sales," said the elderly are the most vulnerable to these types of sales.

"They have owned the home for long time and there's no mortgage company there that will make sure it won't be sold in a tax sale," Rao said.

Rao's main advice about people who are behind in their bills, like property taxes, is to understand the tax lien processes in your state and to seek legal advice, whether paid or pro bono.

"There's a point where you really can lose your house," Rao said. "If you can afford [legal help], you should do it."

To insure yourself against a tax lien sale, you can ask your mortgager to set up an escrow account for taxes and insurance, so that you will have a monthly payment over time instead of a large tax bill.

Many of the subprime loans leading up to the financial crisis didn't have terms that were favorable to consumers, including not having escrow accounts, Rao said.

"A lot of homeowners get hit with large bill and just can't pay it," he said.

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