'It's absolutely outrageous': Cuyahoga County has 35,000 tax-delinquent homeowners

CLEVELAND - Cuyahoga County is dealing with some 35,000 homeowners who are tax delinquent, this despite the county reporting improvements in tax lien sales and financial counseling for those on payment plans.

Cleveland Councilman Michael Polensek told News 5 it's critical the county prosecute more cases and move property owners who owe more than $10,000 and aren't on payment plans more quickly through the foreclosure process.

"The amount of money owed to Cuyahoga County, it's outrageous, it's absolutely outrageous," said Polensek. "The county is owed like $250 million dollars.

"We should be inundating the prosecutors office with these properties.

"My biggest questions to the county are what internal systems are you implementing? Are you hiring enough people to process these cases?"

Cleveland Councilman Tony Brancatelli told News 5 the number of delinquent property owners is more like 40,000.

He pointed to one property owner in his ward who county records indicate owes $21,000 in back taxes but is still collecting rent.

Brancatelli said the home is a real safety hazard for the neighborhood and has been condemned, but the county has yet to foreclose on the homeowner.

"This property here is across from Central Catholic, St. Stan's High school, and an elementary school," said Brancatelli. "Thousands of kids are going by this property everyday."

News 5 requested and on-camera interview or a statement from Cuyahoga County Treasurer Chris Murray on new tax collection efforts, but all we were given were links to a website that give residents information on paying their property taxes or getting on a payment plan.

Meanwhile Brancatelli is urging other council members to send letters to delinquent property owners in their wards in an effort to get them started on payment plans.

Brancatelli is also thinking about introducing legislation that wouldn't allow homeowners to collect rent if they are more than several thousand behind in property taxes.

"You start cutting people off and cutting off their income stream, (that) is when we're going to get more attention to it," said Brancatelli. "Because if people know they can't rent, then they know and they'll pay attention to us more."

 

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