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Property Trash Liens Disputed

    An area businessman is speaking out against a process he believes is cutting into the profits he makes from flipping foreclosed homes.

    Dale Livermore, the owner of Española’s Choice Properties, is in contact with North Central Solid Waste Trash officials in hopes of convincing them to waive the outstanding trash debts attached to houses he purchased.

    Authority General Manager Gino Romero said Livermore is seeking reimbursement for the $1,800 he paid to get clear titles on the two foreclosed houses he bought in Rio Arriba County.

    Romero said the Authority isn’t in a position to reimburse the money nor is he in a position to forgive the debt on any future foreclosed properties Dale and his company acquires.

    “Mr. Livermore is picking up these properties through bankruptcies and of course they owe money on them,” Romero said. “If there isn’t a lien, he is selling them, but if they got a lien and owe $2,000 or $3,000, he is asking us to waive that because he is upset he has to pay that debt.”   

    Livermore acknowledges the Authority has a right to place a lien on property where the owner or owners neglected to pay the bills, but he asserts that in these instances the liens were filed improperly.

    “I am disagreeing with North Central,” Livermore said. “There are two properties that had liens filed incorrectly and I went ahead and paid the liens, so the properties could close. So it wouldn’t be a problem.”

Waited too long

    Although Livermore said he doesn’t know the process Authority officials use for filing claims against errant property owners, they waited too long before placing the liens on the properties in question.

    “North Central has a right to lien, if the trash bills aren’t getting paid,” Livermore said. “But, if they don’t lien before the property is transferred, they lost that opportunity.”

    Since Authority officials failed to put a lien on the property before it changed hands, they should try to recover the outstanding balance via a debt collector, Livermore said.

    He concludes that since the property changed hands before the lien was filed, the balance on the accounts should have been zero.

    Romero said Livermore’s claim isn’t far off base but a few differences do exist. An organization such as the Authority usually can not collect a debt once the property is transferred to another owner.

    But, he said the situation with these two properties aren’t your run of the mill property transactions. Since the properties are foreclosures, Authority officials aren’t notified of the pending transactions and therefore aren’t given an opportunity to put a lien on the property, he believes it is right to make Livermore pay the past debt.

    Romero said the problem isn’t his creation and he is simply the benefactor of the decisions made by a third party.

    “The issue is not with us,” he said, “It is with the title companies that want those bills paid off,” he said. “I am not giving him a clearance until the property is sold and registered to someone else.”

    Romero said title companies have an interest in ensuring the title is clear because it reduces their exposure to liability.

Not our problem

    Rio Arriba County Manager Tomas Campos and alternative Authority Board member said he supports Romero’s decision.

    He said Livermore has contacted the Authority’s Board and several members of the County’s management team seeking a grievance hearing but Campos said he doesn’t understand what grounds Livermore would cite to further his cause.

    “That is between him and the title company,” Campos said. “He wants to hold a hearing, but I don’t see no cause.”

    One of the reasons Campos doesn’t see a cause for a hearing is because Livermore is buying the properties from the bank and reselling them without registering the properties in his name.

    If Livermore put the property in his name, it would effectively stop the debt from accruing, and it would help resolve the previous debt, Romero said. But Livermore isn’t the only one who could help mitigate the situation.

    He said the bank that foreclosed the property could probably take a few steps to make life easier for those they do business with.

    “If he was to register the property as vacant and for sale, it would stop the clock,” he said. “But, I am not about to give a free title for a property where services were rendered during the time the property went to foreclosure. Fannie Mae could probably solve the problem by putting it as a vacancy as soon as they take over.”

    Romero said the only time the Authority has been successful in placing liens on the property of errant account holders is when the homeowner file for bankruptcy.

    The Rio Arriba County Solid Waste ordinance authorizes the authority to place liens on properties in an effort to collect outstanding debt.

    Livermore hasn’t filed a grievance regarding the Authority’s position.

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