In metro Detroit, several Garden City families are fighting eviction, after they say their homes were wrongfully foreclosed and sold to the city.
Garden City bought 17 foreclosed home from Wayne County this year, before the houses went to public auction. But the city didn’t tell residents their homes had been purchased, and then resold the houses to a private development company.
Meanwhile, many of the families said they believed they still had time to make payments on their back taxes.
Geno Deanda says it wasn’t until he went to pay off his back taxes in full that Wayne County officials told him the county had sold his home to the city.
Counties can offer cities a chance to buy homes before they go up on public auction.
But Garden City officials told Deanda, they’d already sold his house to a development company.
Deanda says he got a list of all 17 homes Garden City purchased.
“I started calling people, started showing up at the doors, and found out that all these people had no idea what was going on, too,” Deanda says.
Two others residents, Paula Newcomb and Eleanor Ewald, said their payment plans with the county gave them until mid-December of this year to make their payments.
They say it wasn’t until they found out from Deanda and his wife that they realized their home had been bought by the city, and then resold.
Eleanor Ewald says she, her husband and their three kids will lose their home, unless the city rescinds the sale to developers and allows residents to buy back their homes.
"So we'll be renting, or we'll be homeless. It's going to be a rough Christmas."
But Garden City Treasurer Alison Bettis says the city has seen the payment histories on all of these houses – and only a few people ever made any payments on their back taxes at all, and none of the families was up to date on payments.
“Keep in mind, these are on 2012 taxes,” she says. “If you read the payment agreement, it’s extremely explicit that this can happen.”
Bettis says while the city was aware that some of the houses were occupied, it didn’t feel it was necessary to alert the residents that the city was buying their homes and then reselling them to a developer, because the proposed purchases and sales were all publicly discussed at city council meetings.
As for rescinding the sale of the homes to the developer, Bettis says that would open the city up to a costly lawsuit. “I don’t think that’s in the best interest of any of our citizens, because we don’t have any grounds to rescind the contract.”
Several of the families are being represented by Dearborn attorney Tarek M. Baydoun, who says he plans to pursue legal action against Garden City.