Valencia County officials going after back taxes for mobile homes

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The county's mobile home department is making a dent in the back taxes owed on these homes thanks to diligent research and the willingness to take them to public auction.

After several months of work, the department, which is part of the Valencia County treasurer's department, was ready to take four properties to public auction next month.

While that might not sound like a lot, mobile home specialist Louis Sanchez said he and his supervisor, Eugene Pickett, started with 23 homes — the worst offenders in the county.

"Some were 10 years or more delinquent," Sanchez said.

Unlike what is referred to as "real property" that can be auctioned off after three years of delinquency, mobile home delinquencies linger on the tax rolls until the back taxes are paid.

But now, even those four won't be put on the sale block. Two have made significant payments — more than half of what was owed — and the other two have additional parties who have an ownership interest in the homes, which requires further notification and research.

All the work of researching the properties and making personal visits was not in vain though.

Sanchez said he and Pickett visited each home personally at least three times.

"The last time we visited, we had (the owner) sign an acknowledgement of the upcoming tax sale," he said.

Since then, many owners have paid their bill in full and at least half of the owners have made significant payments, Sanchez said.

The last time the county scheduled an auction for mobile homes was in 2008, Sanchez said. Everything was paid up before the auction, so the sale was canceled.

Sanchez and Pickett did one more sweep of the properties that were left on the auction list, red-tagging properties, which brought in more payments.

"We have gone out of our way to get people to pay their bills and keep their homes," Sanchez said.

He said the department would like to do this kind of auction run-up at least twice a year to clean up the tax rolls.

"We've dealt with the worst, which represented about $35,000 in uncollected taxes," Sanchez said. "Now that we have dealt with the worst, we will move on to the next 25. We'll go through this same process and get the ones left on the list to auction."

And depending on how well it goes, there may or may not need to be an auction.

Sanchez said the average tax bill for the mobile homes in arrears was between $1,200 and $1,500. When back taxes are collected on mobile homes, all the money stays in the county, he said.

In addition to bringing much-needed revenue to the county, Sanchez said being out and about in the community, being seen in county vehicles, will hopefully make all property owners more aware of their own tax obligations.

"The county commission and public know the problems with back taxes. The treasurer's mobile home department is taking action; we have done all that is possible to work with the taxpayers," he said. "We have eliminated 21 from the auction list and the list of arrears. We are looking to the future from here. We will continue to collect and remove properties from the list."

On average, property taxes for a mobile home is between $70 and $80 a year, Sanchez said. Unless it's set on a permanent foundation — then it becomes what is referred to as "real property."

"The majority of the county's affordable housing inventory is mobile homes," he said. "A mobile home that is 10 to 15 years old doesn't generate much, while a 20-year-old site-built home averages between $700 and $1,200 a year.

"Once a mobile home is set on a permanent foundation though, it becomes real property. It's considered a land improvement."

For instance a 15-year-old mobile home might be valued at $12,000 for property tax purposes, Sanchez said. Take that same mobile home and put it on a permanent foundation and the assessment might be closer to $70,000.

He recommended that mobile home owners review their notice of values that are coming out next month. The bills are coded using simple initials — an "M" means the property is being assessed as just a mobile home, while an "R" is for residential "real property."

Sanchez said since mobile homes are treated differently than real property, when they are sold a lot of new owners don't register the homes.

And if you want to move or sell a mobile home in Valencia County, it has to be registered and current on property taxes. A tax release is required for the transport certificate issued by the county free of charge.

"If you haven't registered your mobile home, changed the title or made tax payments, please come talk to us," Sanchez said. "We are here to assist the public with their problems; we will work to find a way to make payment arrangements. People don't need to be afraid."

For information about mobile home property taxes, contact Sanchez at 866-2013, or Pickett at 866-2092.


-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.