posted by Hannity Staff - 16 hours ago
A disabled veteran in Arizona could lose his home over approximately $230 he owes in back taxes; sparking an outpouring of support for the former service member across the United States.
“Disabled military veteran Jim Boerner bought his buttercup-yellow mobile home in Mesa two years ago, hoping to live affordably into his old age,” reports AZ Central. “Boerner, 49, is unable to work because of spinal and brain injuries he suffered during a training exercise in 1991 at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi.”
“A stranger knocked on his door last month claiming to have bought his home at auction because of $236 in late taxes,” adds the website.
“I said, ‘What are you talking about? … This has got to be wrong,’ ” Boerner said. “Had I known I was in peril of losing my home, I would have paid it in full.”
“It’s difficult. It’s just difficult,” Boerner added. “I love my home. I love my neighbors. … This was my nest egg, you know? That’s why I paid cash for it. This is where I was going to retire. And now I don’t have that assurance anymore.”
The county office in charge of taxes say there may be nothing they can do to get around the sale.“I’ve been getting the brick wall everywhere I turn,” Boerner said.
What went wrong?
Boerner has had to navigate a labyrinth of bureaucracy to find out what went wrong.
The Maricopa County Assessor's Office handles tax exemptions. The Maricopa County Treasurer's Office collects tax payments and issues delinquency notices. The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office serves delinquent taxpayers with auction notices and conducts the sales.
"I've been getting the brick wall everywhere I turn," Boerner said.
Treasurer Royce Flora, who has been trying to help, said it's understandable that a taxpayer may feel lost.
If Boerner had lived in a single-family home, he might not be on the verge of being kicked out. Single-family homeowners have five years to pay back taxes before foreclosure.
But different rules apply to mobile homes, which are considered personal property, Flora said. They can be auctioned as soon as tax payments are late.
Arizona law is "not treating (a mobile home) like someone's home," Flora said. "A home is a home, and they should be treated the same."
No record of his application
Boerner's problems began last year when a sheriff's deputy arrived to tell him he was late on his property taxes and his mobile home could be sold at auction.
Boerner said he was confused.
He remembered filling out paperwork in 2017 soon after he bought the home to apply for a property tax exemption and receiving a postcard confirming his acceptance.
After the deputy's visit, Boerner said he sent another application to the Assessor's Office and received another postcard. He didn't keep either postcard, Boerner said.
Boerner called the Sheriff's Office after last year's visit and learned the home was not scheduled for auction, so he figured things were cleared up, he said.
The Assessor's Office told The Arizona Republic it does send postcards to confirm property tax exemptions. But after searching thoroughly, the office found no record of Boerner applying for an exemption in 2017 or 2018, although the office keeps all related documents including incomplete and rejected applications.
Another knock on the door
A few weeks ago, a sheriff's deputy arrived at Boerner's home again.
"Are we going to do this every year?" Boerner said he wondered.
The deputy told him he was "perilously close" to losing the home and advised he pay the tax soon, Boerner said.
Boerner called June 13 to make a payment. Two county employees told him the deadline was weeks away."There's nothing serious you would need to be worried about as far as the home being in any danger or anything like that," a county call center employee told him, according to a recording made by the county.
When Boerner asked the amount he needed to pay, he was transferred to a Sheriff's Office employee."Are they going to kick me out between now and June 30?" Boerner asked.
"I would imagine not. I would always advise paying as quickly as you can, but I don't see anything in my comments saying they're going to," the employee replied.
That wasn't true.Boerner's account with the Sheriff's Office included notes that his home was scheduled for auction June 20, documents show.
A Sheriff's Office spokesman did not respond to questions from The Republic about why Boerner was given incorrect information on the phone about the imminent auction.
The Sheriff's Office employee then told Boerner he owed $641 in total. Of that, $405 was due from last year, the employee said.
When Boerner made the payment online, he said he only remembered $405. That's what he paid. It wasn't enough. The home was sold at auction a week later for $4,400.
Conversations with the buyer
Soon, a man knocked on Boerner's door and said he had bought the mobile home. How long would it take him to move out, Boehner remembered the man asking.
The man gave an alias, Alex Patron, Boerner said, but business records suggest the buyer's real name is Lester Payne. He purchased the home under a business called Advanced Dynamic Energy Ltd.
"I said, 'What are you talking about?' " Boerner said. "He said, 'I have all the documentation.' "
Boerner invited Payne in for a cool drink and called the county to ask what happened. An employee told him he hadn't paid enough in taxes and his home had been auctioned.
Payne offered to sell the home back, Boerner remembered.
"Thank God," he thought. Boerner figured he could pay $5,000, giving Payne a 16% profit.
But Payne said he would only settle for $30,000, nearly as much as Boerner had spent on the home originally and more than he could afford, Boerner said.
"I was begging him to rethink," Boerner said.
Over the next few days, Payne told Boerner he would sell the home for $26,000, and then $52,000, according to text messages Boerner shared.
Payne told Boerner by phone if he didn't pay, Payne could haul the home away at night, Boerner said.Payne wanted to work with Boerner but the veteran called him and his family nasty names, the buyer told The Republic.
"I'm not going to try to deal with this issue anymore," Payne said.
Text messages Boerner shared with The Republic don't show him calling Payne names, but the veteran did tell Payne he could expose the buyer's criminal rap sheet, which includes felonies for aggravated assault, misconduct involving weapons and endangerment along with misdemeanors for driving under the influence and shoplifting, according to county court records."You want a battle, Lester," Boerner wrote. "We will battle."
Payne texted that he was "tired of the threats."
"It's been long enough for you to try to buy the home," Payne texted. "I'm starting (the) eviction process now."
How tax lien auctions work
From all accounts, it appears Payne legally purchased Boerner's home and has the right to take over the title.
Tax lien auctions help local governments collect unpaid property taxes that are needed to fund schools, law enforcement and roads. In the case of single-family homes, owners have two years to pay delinquent taxes before the tax lien is auctioned. And an auction winner has three years to collect the tax payment, plus interest, from the taxpayer before being allowed to foreclose and take ownership of the home.
In the case of mobile homes, state law allows an auction to be held the day after a tax payment is due. In practice, there's a little bit of a delay.The Maricopa County Treasurer's Office allows mobile-home taxpayers 30 days after a tax payment is due before declaring it delinquent and another 30 days before notifying the Sheriff's Office.
The Sheriff's Office decides which mobile homes to auction.
A detective visits the home to confirm its location, notifies the delinquent taxpayer, explains where to make a payment, warns that failing to do so could result in an auction and leaves a notice of sale, said spokesman Sgt. Bryant Vanegas. If a deputy can't serve the taxpayer, the Sheriff's Office publishes a notice in a newspaper.Once a mobile-home tax lien is purchased, the buyer owns the home and can evict the tenants.
An uncertain future
Boerner said he has no idea where he will live if he loses the mobile home.
He can't burden his parents by living in their small house for long, Boerner said, and he may not be able to afford to buy another place."I don't know where I would go," he said.
Flora, the treasurer, has asked the Maricopa County Attorney's Office to investigate.
He thinks the sale should be reversed because the Sheriff's Office gave Boerner incorrect information by phone about the timing of the auction and because Boerner paid the 2017 taxes.
The Sheriff's Office typically doesn't auction a home until a year or more of late taxes rack up, so it's curious why the office moved forward based on 2018 taxes that were only a few weeks late.A sheriff's spokesman did not clarify the decision.
Flora said he will personally pay $15,000 to save the home. But Payne is no longer willing to sell, he told The Republic on Tuesday."I'm keeping the home," he said. "My grandma needs a house. She likes the (mobile home) park."
State lawmakers concerned by Boerner's case said they want to change the law so that mobile-home owners have more time to pay back taxes. But those changes wouldn't be made until the spring when the new legislative session opens.
"A mere $50 can mean the difference between an individual or family being forced to live on the streets," Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff, said.
Thorpe held a meeting at the state Capitol on Thursday with the mobile-home industry, government officials and residents about possible changes to the law.
"I want fairness," Thorpe told the group. "We need to make sure there is enough of a grace period similar to a stick-built home so a person with a fixed income is not going to lose their home out from under them."
Rep. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale, said he will urge Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone to look for a way to reverse the sale."Nobody wants a disabled veteran kicked out of his home in 107 degrees," Kern said.
Boerner said the stress is wearing on him."It's emotional. It's frustrating," he said. "... It's maddening I could lose my home over $200."Boerner doesn't know how soon he'll have to leave.The buyer "could come at anytime and tell me, 'Time to get out,' " Boerner said.
Contact the veteran
Offers of help or encouragement can be sent to Boerner through his attorney, Curtis Ensign, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 602-266-3300.
Or you may help as a Go Fund Me Page has been set up.