A pair of Livingston County's neighbors are suing two mortgage giants for not paying millions of dollars in taxes for homes they foreclosed on. Shouldn't Livingston County join in?
Livingston County Democrats think so and on Wednesday, county chair Jordan Genso urged the county commission to look into joining the lawsuits brought by Oakland County and Ingham County against Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
With money tight, governments ought to be looking at any potential source of revenue. And that's what officials in Ingham and Oakland have done.
In June Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner sued mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in federal court, alleging that the lenders failed to pay real estate transfer taxes to the county when they recorded documents with the county Register of Deeds.
The county portion of property transfer taxes is $1.10 per $1,000 of a property’s value. The state portion of the transfer tax is $7.50 per $1,000. Oakland County officials have estimated the two lenders owe the state and county $12 million for unpaid transfer taxes.
Ingham County Register of Deeds Curtis Hertel Jr. filed a similar lawsuit naming not only Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac but also Bank of America, BAC Home Loans Servicing, Wells Fargo Bank, Countrywide Home Loans Servicing, and two Michigan law firms, Trott & Trott and Orlans Associates.
That suit, filed in Ingham County Circuit Court, names the entities besides Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac because Hertel believes that the companies might have assigned mortgages to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac right before a foreclosure in order to avoid paying the transfer taxes.
Hertel also said millions of dollars could be owed to the county and the state.
Genso asked the county commission to look into how much Livingston County might have lost in transfer taxes unpaid by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and report that figure to the public, along with its decision on whether or not to join the lawsuits, by August 31.
Money recovered from the lawsuit could be used to start foreclosure prevention and assistance programs in Livingston County, Genso said.