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County seizes, auctions home over $400 tax bill

Seven On Your Side
February 17, 2012 8:11:23 PM PST
It was a nightmare scenario for one Dutchess County homeowner. His house sold out from under him all for an unpaid tax bill worth just a few hundred bucks. Was the county justified or is this simply an example of government run amuck?

Dr. Marc Spero's paying for a house he no longer owns.

Last year, Marc says Dutchess County sold his weekend home of 25 years without his knowledge. All because he forgot to pay a three-year-old tax bill charged by his local fire department worth just $416.

"I was just totally stunned," Dr. Spero said, "We owed $416 in fire taxes and they took the house and sold it for $93,500."

Marc says his first warning was an eviction notice posted on his house's front door, giving him just 10 days to vacate.

"We were scared to death and we had no idea what was going on," Dr. Spero said.

Marc says he could be kicked out any day from his prized Bauhaus-inspired house that's been his weekend refuge for almost a quarter century.

"It was love at first sight," Spero said.

He married his bride in the front yard, and taught their daughter to ride a bike out back.

"This house is really a member of my family," Spero said.

Marc's staved off eviction by filing a lawsuit against the new owner and Dutchess County.

The new owner had no comment, and the county contends it notified Marc properly of his home's pending auction by posting a sign in front.

But Marc questions whether the sign was even on his land, or instead on an empty lot next door.

"It never even occurred to me. I thought someone had bought the lot next door," Spero said.

The county says it sent out a notice using regular mail, but Spero says he never received it.

The county also said it mailed a dozen certified letters to his house, but since Spero's only there on weekends they were declared undeliverable.

"There was nobody here to sign for the registered letters," Spero said.

Other letters went to his mortgage company, but the county mis-addressed the mailing to Chase Mortgage, sending three letters to Edison, New York, not New Jersey.

"They could've gone to the internet and Google'd Marc Spero and found me in 10 seconds," Spero said.

New Dutchess County Legislator Sue Serino called Spero's story "a tragedy." She's now looking to change the way fire taxes are collected in Hyde Park.

"I hope to never have this happen to anyone again," Serino said.

The process of evicting Dr. Spero and his wife from their home has been stopped because he is challenging the constitutionality of the sale in court, arguing, in part, that there's must be a better way to get someone to pay their taxes than to sell their home.

As for the county, it also said it never knew this was Marc's weekend home. The county says his home is listed in its records as his primary residence.

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