Back taxes boost price on Richmond County land sale past $100K on lot worth a fraction of that

·3 min read
Richmond County Warden Amanda Mombourquette says it's not unusual to have properties up for tax sale with amounts ranging as high as $109,000. (Tom Ayers/CBC - image credit)
Richmond County Warden Amanda Mombourquette says it's not unusual to have properties up for tax sale with amounts ranging as high as $109,000. (Tom Ayers/CBC - image credit)

Richmond County's tax sale on Friday includes a wide range of properties with unpaid taxes and other costs, with one going on the auction block for more than six times what it's worth.

The Cape Breton property, with an assessed value of $17,300, is on the hook for nearly $109,000 in back taxes and costs.

That's because there was a building on the property at one time, but the county had to demolish it and add the cost of cleanup to the tax bill, said Warden Amanda Mombourquette.

The least expensive property has an assessed value of about $6,000, but has bills owing for just over $2,200.

Most tax sales feature properties with a variety of amounts owing, Mombourquette said.

"It's not unusual," she said. "In this case, there's quite a range, but like I said it's often due to other factors that are contributing to that price going so high."

None of the properties are redeemable

The tax sale is a public auction that starts at 10 a.m. on Friday in the municipal office in Arichat.

It includes 28 properties, most listed as land only, but one includes land and dwelling.

None of the properties are redeemable, meaning once they are sold, the former owner has no chance of paying off the bill to get the property back.

Tax sales are being held more frequently, but are not an indication of a huge problem for Richmond County, Mombourquette said.

"I definitely wouldn't go out on that limb, but in the past, Richmond County only used to do one tax sale a year," she said.

"We are getting a little more aggressive on it and we're doing two sales a year now."

It doesn't seem likely that someone would want to purchase a parcel of land for $109,000 when it's only worth $17,000, but municipalities are obligated to try to recover the taxes and costs owing, Mombourquette said.

Submitted by Glace Bay Fire Department
Submitted by Glace Bay Fire Department

If a property does not sell for the value of its unpaid bills, the county can readvertise it later at a lower cost, she said.

The Richmond property with $109,000 in taxes and costs owing is not the highest on the island.

Last year, a tax sale in Cape Breton Regional Municipality included properties with taxes and costs owing that ranged between $600 and $349,000.

In that case, the empty lot on Main Street in Glace Bay that used to be home to Billy D's Lounge was valued at $31,500 for tax purposes, but listed on the tax sale for $349,000.

The building burned down in 2016 and the costs included back taxes, plus the costs the municipality incurred cleaning up the lot.

Submitted by Victoria County Municipal Office
Submitted by Victoria County Municipal Office

Meanwhile, a tax sale earlier this year in Victoria County attracted a record number of bids.

The county has since put out a request for proposals to find a realtor to market municipal properties.

Mombourquette said that could be a strategy worth copying.

"We'll certainly be watching and chatting with them about their experience in going that route, because it's certainly not something we've entertained in the past," she said.

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