Thursday, January 26, 2006

I Shot the Sheriff (After My Property Was Put Up For Tax Sale)

Pittsburgh's Other, Other, Other, Newspaper of Record has this story on the recent move by the Allegheny County Sheriff's Department to advertise Sherrif's Sales in the Tribune Review, instead of the Post-Gazette. A clip:

~According to a Post-Gazette advertising official, the sheriff’s office never called to ask for a better price before withdrawing its ads.

~The Trib’s own general manager says his paper was just handed the deal by the sheriff’s office.

~While the Trib and the P-G have given similar amounts of coverage to recent indictments in the sheriff’s department, the P-G’s commentary has been more forceful and its investigative pieces more frequent. On Dec. 12, for instance, P-G columnist Ruth Ann Dailey wrote in a column, “Whatever the psychological motivations in the sheriff’s office, there were no checks and balances at work -- nothing to make potential wrong-doers think twice.” The P-G has even investigated whether the sheriff’s vehicles were washed too often, and asked in a Dec. 11 story about the office’s scandals, “Did the sheriff know what was going on? And if not, why not?”

~The sheriff’s office took an admittedly dumb gaffe personally, and the Trib was glad to gloat about it. A Post-Gazette letter announcing changes in ad rates was addressed to the late sheriff Eugene Coon and not Sheriff Pete DeFazio, who has been in office since 1997. “Gee, is that a slap in somebody’s face, too,” Fersch says. The letter was featured in the Trib’s Sunday Whispers column on Jan. 8.
The article then goes on to talk a bit more about how the Sheriff's Office is denying that politics played any part of it... yadda-yadda-yadda.

Those of you not familiar with Sheriff Sales can get this definition from
n. an auction sale of property held by the sheriff pursuant to a writ (court order) of execution (to seize and sell the property) to satisfy (pay) a judgment, after notice to the public.
Usually this means a foreclosure on the mortgage, although I suppose that tax liens and water & sewer liens would also fit the bill.

I had heard about this change, and figured that the Sheriff was going to a cheaper provider (as is usually the case), although the article above indicates that price was never really a factor. The Sheriff's office is also required to notify you via certified mail, but that doesn't always work.

So, what's my point here? This: the Trib's subscription is decidely less than the Post-Gazette, although I find no reason to thoroughly back up this assertion. Therefore, tax sale announcements are going to be less widely distributed. Therefore, fewer people are going to show up at tax sales or be even aware that such sales are going on. Ergo, more property is seized and, more than likely, sold to an outside agency like GLS.

I'm also going to guess that the areas most likely to be seized aren't going to be in Fox Chapel or Shadyside, but rather the Hill District or Duquesne. Delinquency rates in low income municipalities and neighborhoods are appalling.


So words of advice: pay your mortgage, your taxes, and your water bills. If you don't, you may end up evicted... unless you read the Trib.

Pick your poison.

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