This is blatant theft. From Matthew Vadum at The Epoch Times via zerohedge.com:
After a town in central Massachusetts seized dramatically more than what a farmer owed in property taxes, the farmer is suing the town in federal court for alleged “home equity theft.”
Alpaca farmer Alan DiPietro, an engineer by training who lives outside of Worcester, filed suit (pdf) earlier this month against the town of Bolton, claiming that the seizure constitutes an unlawful taking of his property in violation of the Massachusetts Constitution and the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
When Bolton took DiPietro’s home in December 2021, it had a market value of at least $370,000. The town subtracted his debt of about $60,000 and pocketed the remaining approximately $310,000 in equity.
Massachusetts law permits the government to keep the excess amount. The Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), which is representing DiPietro, calls this home equity theft. Twelve states and the District of Columbia allow local governments and private investors to seize dramatically more than what’s owed from homeowners who fall behind on property tax payments, according to the PLF, which issued a December 2022 report on the practice, The Epoch Times reported.
The U.S. Supreme Court will soon take up the issue of home equity theft in a PLF case.
On Jan. 13, the court agreed to hear Tyler v. Hennepin County, Minnesota, the appeal of a 94-year-old homeowner who’s challenging the constitutionality of laws that allow local governments to take the full value of a home as payment for much smaller property tax debts. The county seized Geraldine Tyler’s condo, valued at $93,000, and sold it for just $40,000. Instead of keeping the $15,000 it was owed, the county retained the full $40,000, amounting to a windfall of $25,000, according to the PLF. A date for the hearing has yet to be determined.
DiPietro had been raising alpacas and marketing their fleece since 2008 in Bolton, a town in the Nashoba Valley region. But by 2014, he needed more land, so he purchased 34 undeveloped acres situated in Bolton and the neighboring town of Stow. He mowed the existing fields and put up fencing and some small structures, unaware that Bolton would claim that the improvements required local permits.