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News March 23, 2011

Bidders will vie for properties at county tax sale.

March 23, 2011

The Times Leader
By Jennifer Learn-Andes This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Luzerne County auction set to sell 370 properties, most free of taxes, liens and mortgages.

About 370 properties will be available for purchase to the highest bidder at the Luzerne County Courthouse today because the property owners did not pay their back taxes.

The first round of auctioning, which begins at 10 a.m. in the courthouse rotunda, is expected to attract the most bids because the properties are in the judicial or “free-and-clear” sale.

These roughly 200 properties did not sell at previous back-tax auctions. Buyers are required to pay what it cost the county for legal and advertising fees related to the sale, which means bidding typically starts around $800 or less. These properties are free of any taxes, liens and mortgages.

The remaining 170 properties are in an upset sale for properties that have not yet been listed at a previous back-tax sale. Buyers of upset sale properties must pay off all back taxes and government liens and might be responsible for other non-government liens or debts tied to the properties.

The list of upset sale properties includes Robert Powell’s Butler Township law office.

Powell’s building, listed under the company name Big Kahuna Realty LLC, requires a starting bid of $84,470, according to the public posting.

The Fox Run Road building on 5 acres is assessed at $1.17 million.

Most of the 170 upset sale properties, including Big Kahuna, were listed because the owners defaulted on back-tax repayment plans, according to representatives of Northeast Revenue Service LLC, which has been operating the county tax claim office since May.

Powell’s property is not expected to sell today because the buyer would have to assume other outstanding liens against the property.

Properties that don’t sell in the upset sale will be auctioned in an Aug. 10 free-and-clear sale unless the property owners obtain a court order, file for bankruptcy or pay all back taxes owed up to 2009 to get out of the sale.

In the past, payment plan defaulters would be off the hook until an annual upset sale was held in September, but Northeast Revenue opted to hold a special upset sale in March to address delinquencies sooner.

Bidders must complete paperwork in advance, and around 100 bidders were registered by Tuesday’s deadline, said Northeast Revenue representative Sean Shamany.

John Rodgers, also of Northeast Revenue, said many of the properties in today’s sale have dodged sales for years. The company has vowed to adhere to procedures and not allow special exceptions for any property owners.

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