Local case having national impact, changes likely in Minnesota too

Local case having national impact, changes likely in Minnesota too

Local case having national impact, changes likely in Minnesota too

Shortly after the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) unanimously ruled in her favor, a Minneapolis woman’s lawsuit against Hennepin County is having a nationwide impact.

It’s also expected to create change in Minnesota when lawmakers head back to the Capitol for the 2024 legislative session. Republican Senator Warren Limmer says he plans to “revive legislation meant to stop government from keeping excess cash equity found in citizen’s homes after a tax forfeiture.”

In late May, in Tyler v. Hennepin County, the SCOTUS unanimously ruled that the county illegally kept more money than it should have when it sold 94-year-old Geraldine Tyler’s one-bedroom condo in Minneapolis over unpaid taxes.

Back in 2010, Tyler moved from her condo and stopped paying taxes on it. After penalties, interest, and other costs, Tyler’s tax debt eventually increased to $15,000. To collect that debt, the county foreclosed on the condo and sold it for $40,000.

However, because Tyler’s debt was only $15,000, her attorneys argued that the county should’ve given her the $25,000 that remained from the sale after her debt was paid.

“I’m so grateful that they’re following constitutional principle regarding government takings,” Senator Limmer said about the justices.

“To keep all of the money for government is just [an] atrocious example of government overreach,” Limmer said, adding, “This is home equity theft and it’s got to stop.”

According to Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), the organization that represented Tyler, Minnesota is one of 12 states that have similar forfeiture laws – that number, though, is likely set to change soon. Just last week, PLF said Nebraska passed legislation abolishing the practice and that New York lawmakers are working on a similar bill.

In a statement surrounding how the process is set up now, assistant county administrator and Hennepin County auditor Dan Rogan says, “the government does not make a profit through the sale of forfeited property, or even break even.”

Rogan added, “In a 10-year analysis of forfeitures in Hennepin County, the total of uncollected taxes plus the cost to administer the tax forfeiture laws exceeded the total sale revenues. In other words, the sale of forfeited property helps offset the cost to the public of tax delinquency.”

Sen. Limmer does not expect much of a challenge when he introduces his bill, especially because of the unanimous decision by the high court.

The bill presented last session strikes existing statutory language and directs the funds only to the taxing jurisdiction in the amount that was owed at forfeiture. It also specifically states, “any balance must be returned to the owner of the parcel at the time the property was forfeited to the state.”