This Morning: Southfield man underpays property tax by $8.41, lost house and money


Imagine owing an $8.41 tax debt and loosing en entire house.

That’s what happened to one Oakland County man and he’s taking his case to the Michigan Supreme Court today.

In 2011, Uri Rafaeli’s business bought a rental home property in Southfield Michigan for $60,000.

His attorney’s say he paid his 2012 and 2013 property taxes in full, but then learned he still owed some money for 2011.

When paying the full tax debt, attorneys say he didn’t factor in the interest growing and underpaid by $8.41.

The county foreclosed on the property and sold it for $24,500 then kept the proceeds.

“He was shocked, he didn’t think this could happen to him in the United States of America. He couldn’t believe it,” says Rafaeli’s attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation, Christina Martin.

Rafaeli’s attorneys argue that it’s unconstitutional to take someone’s property, sell it, and keep the proceeds without just compensation for the sale.

Martin says this isn’t just about Rafaeli’s case, but it’s about protecting all Michigan residents.

“If the government can take an entire house as payment for an $8 property tax debt, then what’s to stop them from taking your car if you pay your parking ticket late. Or your land if you don’t shovel the snow off your sidewalk in time. So this is about the limits of government power and whether you really do own what you think you own,” says Martin.

Martin says that Rafaeli was notified of the debt.

She also says that lower courts have ruled that Oakland County officials acted properly under Michigan’s forfeiture law, where officials can take property and keep proceeds.

Rafaeli will take his fight to Michigan’s highest court today where oral arguments will be made.

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