Mobile home taxes targeted

People unwilling to pay personal property taxes on their mobile homes are at risk of literally losing their domiciles.

After years of tolerance, Island County will conduct a mobile home seizure and sale. The structures are considered personal property and in contrast to real property like homes, for which three years are mandated before foreclosure can proceed, only one year is required.

“We have some that have gone back for years,” said Treasurer Linda Riffe. “It’s never been addressed before.”

In fact, the process of selling off the delinquent mobile homes and recouping lost revenues is so new that the prosecutor’s office is working with Riffe and her staff. Janice Wilson, personal property deputy, has been successful in cutting the list of delinquent mobile homes by one-third. However, 23 still remain.

“She’s really been working hard to contact the mobile home owners and mobile home park owners to see if we can work cooperatively to get those things cleared up,” Riffe said. “It’s a real concern in the county.”

The treasurer’s office exhausts every avenue before resorting to seizing and liquidating a property. Notices are sent continually, but correspondence is often ignored and taxes remain unpaid.

“We really go the extra mile,” Riffe said. “It’s a very costly process to the county.”

For mobile home owners who own real property in the county, a mechanism exists that allows the latter to be attached to the delinquency of the mobile home and a lien is placed on the property.

“That’s statutory,” the treasurer said. “We don’t like to do that, but we can and in some cases we are forced to.”

The seizure and sale will take place the third week of January. A list of the delinquent mobile homes will be printed and made available to prospective buyers.

“Some of the mobile homes are in such disrepair that they are not livable,” Riffe said. “Some people will just want to buy them for scrap.”

Other mobile homes have residents. Still others have moved without notifying the county. To save one’s mobile home, back taxes must be paid, plus interest, penalties and administrative costs. The state law for payment is included on the back of Island County tax statements, Riffe said. The problem is that many people choose to ignore the law.

“They have to pay the taxes and the costs,” she said. “The personal property taxes aren’t anywhere near what they would be for a home. They’re very small, but they still don’t get paid. We try to contact people over and over again before we go to this action.”

Island County is a melting pot of lifestyles and social classes. Mobile homes are the best option for many residents. The problem of delinquency could be the extension of a larger dilemma.

“We realize that for some, this is the only housing they can afford,” Riffe said. “Affordable housing may be an issue that needs to be addressed in Island County.”

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