The newly released city audit states something with which I, unfortunately, had first hand experience, “The city does not have strong controls over its revenue cycles, including the billing and related collection of city-provided services, billing of taxes, and other collection efforts.”
I was 24 years old when I bought my first and current house in Fall River in 2004. I did everything right – I worked 2 jobs to pay for it while still finishing college. Every penny I had, went to pay my mortgage or to home improvements. I was the perfect Fall River homeowner…..except for the fact that I wasn’t paying my property taxes.
As is the case with most residential mortgages, property tax is taken from monthly mortgage payments and put into an escrow account for quarterly city tax payments. I followed this process and put money into my Fall River property tax escrow account with every month’s mortgage payment. When I went to refinance in 2007 I was shocked to find out the city had a lien against my house because I hadn’t paid my property taxes in the 3 years since I purchased it. My mortgage company (New Century – now bankrupt) had been using my escrow money to pay my neighbor’s property taxes for 3 years because the company had gotten the wrong parcel id #.
So…I do realize ultimate fault lies in the now defunct mortgage company for messing up the tax payments BUT I am more annoyed with the city collector’s office who noticed I hadn’t paid taxes on my property in 3 years and went to the trouble of getting a lien against my property rather than sending me a letter notifying me of the problem and asking for the money. According to the staff at the Fall River Collector’s Office, they published a notice in the Herald News that I hadn’t paid my taxes and that they were putting a lien on my property. The Fall River Collector’s Office also continued to send me quarterly bill copies for three years without any mention that I owed them thousands of dollars.
In light of the fact that the city went to the trouble of getting a lien against my house and published my default in the newspaper, my question to the collector’s office was “why didn’t you notify me directly, you obviously had my address” – their answer, “well we don’t do that”.
Hopefully the city hierarchy makes some drastic changes based on the audit.