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978-677-7212

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Christa Emerson, Attorney at Law
1 Courthouse Lane, Suite 6
Chelmsford, MA 01824
Phone: (978) 502-5336

tax title foreclosures
A recent case came down regarding Tax Title Foreclosures.  You've probably all heard how people are buying property for a few thousand dollars and flipping for huge profits.  How are they doing it? TAX TITLES! These purchases can be lucrative, but there are some pitfalls to be aware of.  If you are too eager, much like the tax title purchaser in Tallage LLC v. Meaney (see Land Court Tax Lien Case No. TL 11-143094), you may find yourself in hot water with your third party purchaser.
Here's a bit of background on tax titles.  Tax titles occur when the property owner fails to pay the required property taxes to the city or town in which the property is located. The taxing authority has a "super lien" over all other liens, including mortgages, and can take the property (called taking "title") due to the tax default.  Some towns will publicly list the properties up for tax title purchase or auction, while others require that you purchase a list for $10-15.  You become the legal owner of the lien if they are the winning bidder/purchaser, and there is a 1 year time frame within which the taxpayer can "redeem" the property.  Redemption will only occur if the taxpayer pays whatever was paid by the bidder/purchaser, plus 16% interest.  At the expiration of 1 year, the purchaser can foreclose on the lien, tax title to the property and either reside in, rent or sell the property.  Sounds like a great idea, right?  It is, but only if you follow the proper procedures.
In Tallage LLC, as purchaser of the tax title they were all too eager to attempt foreclosure within weeks of purchasing the property.  Enter HIGCO Corp.  They buy this property at a steal, with hopes of making some major cash on it.  Unfortunately, Tallage LLC failed in their argument that selling to a third party cut off the right of redemption for the Meaney family, who had undergone several major life events, including health crises with their children and a move to a new city.  The court vacated the judgment foreclosing on the lien, and allowed the Meaney's to redeem the property at issue.  
So.....what is the moral of the story here? Wait the 1 year statutory period before foreclosing. Make sure notices are sent to proper addresses. Cross every "T" and dot every "i" so that neither you, nor your third party purchaser, lose their investments.  Can't wait to see if HIGCO files a suit to recover its money from Tallage LLC.  Stay tuned!
CAN I FILE FOR DISABILITY BENEFITS?
The short answer to this question is "yes".  Anyone can file, but are you eligible? If so, do you know what benefit to apply for?  Let's cover the basics....
We'll start with Social Security Disability Benefits, or SSDI.  This benefit is available to individuals to who meet or equal the medical criteria for disability outlined in Social Security's Blue Book, have a conditon that has lasted or is expected to last 12 months or more or end in death, and have earned enough work credits to be "insured" through the program.  To meet insured status, you must have earned enough credits in the last 10 years prior to your date of onset (when you allege disability began).  Generally, you need to have 20 credits in the last 10 years, but this can be lower if an individual is disabled at a younger age.  To earn credits, you must have taxable wages on which you pay Social Security tax.  Currently, $1,260 equals 1 credit, and you can earn up to 4 credits per calendar year.  Regardless of your prior earning capacity, your 2016 payment will never exceed $2,639.  The best part about SSDI insured claimants is that none of their assets or resources will affect eligibility.  But, what happens if you are short credits?
If you are short on credits, you can file for Supplemental Security Benefits, or SSI.  You must still be deemed disabled in accordance with the Blue Book criteria, but you also have to meet non-medical requirements. For an individual, your available resources and assets (exclusive of certain exemptions) cannot exceed $2,000.  This figure is increased to $3,000 for couples.  SSI is a need-based program, so if you are receiving a pension, child support, monthly stipends, etc., that will all be counted as an available resource when determining financial eligiblity.  You can be very much medically disabled, but ineligible for payment because of the needs/asset test.  Social Security can also "deem" income to you, meaning that anything paid for you or on your behalf, or given to you, is viewed as an income to you.
I often have people what happens to state/federal employees who are unable to work due to disabilty.  Since they haven't paid into the Social Security system, they aren't "insured". They likely have some other assets that lead to financial ineligibility for SSI payments.  So long as they have worked long enough in state/federal employment, and depending on the cause of their alleged disability, they may be able to file a disability claim through PERAC.
Sometimes, you aren't expecting to be out of work for an extended period of time. Maybe you've had hip surgery, and you'll be out of work for 6 months.  You aren't eligible for any Social Security programs, and you aren't a government employee. If you have short or long-term disability insurance, you may be eligible to receive 60% of your pay while out of work.  These processes can be confusing, and you will need a good handle on your policy.  Many times you get denied benefits and need to appeal. 
I'm always happy to help consult with individuals about general eligibility for benefits, and help them apply for any benefits they may be eligible for.  Do yourself a favor and take a look at your next paycheck.  Do you carry Long-Term Disability insurance (LTD) or life insurance? Can you or your family survive without your income, or at least a portion of it, forever? If not, I suggest you call my friend Ryan Hart at 781-398-8998.  Ryan is a New York Life representative that can help you price out a policy that will protect both you and your family.