Athol to take title on 96 properties

This former bowling alley on Main Street is among the properties the town is taking the tax title for unpaid taxes.

This former bowling alley on Main Street is among the properties the town is taking the tax title for unpaid taxes. PHOTO BY GREG VINE—


Athol Daily News Editor

Published: 03-18-2024 5:00 PM

ATHOL — Following a March 1 legal notice, the town will proceed with placing 96 properties in tax title for unpaid taxes, according to Treasurer/Tax Collector Patrick McIntyre.

The sizable number of properties in arrears account for the last two years, said McIntyre. Out of an original list of 104 parcels, he said that only eight settled their back taxes by a March 18 deadline.

The town announced that it would proceed with taking the properties after providing written notification of non-payment of taxes on March 1. The amounts owed ranged from $43.52 for a 4,000 square-foot parcel on Congress Street to nearly $3,000 owed for a 41,300 square-foot property on Parmenter Street. McIntyre estimated that the amount owed for the parcels totals approximately $150,000.

McIntyre said that most of the properties are residential, though a former bowling alley on Main Street is among them. He said that the town has already taken possession of that property and plans to take the building down.

Several of the homeowners are in the process of being evicted, he noted.

“We have some abandoned ones where they just walked away from it,” McIntyre said, of some of the properties.

According to McIntyre, the first step in the tax title process is to take a lien out against a property. Any action involving the deed, such as a sale, would require that the taxes owed be paid. Should the owners attempt to sell their property, the taxes would come out of the sale proceeds.

“We’d work out a payment plan as opposed to going to court,” said McIntyre, adding that the Land Court process can take some time.

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Should the town end up taking possession of the property and opts to sell, McIntyre said that the proceeds would have the taxes deducted, with the rest going to the owners. In May, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Tyler v. Hennepin County (Minnesota) ruled the government can only retain tax debts owed, and no more, when seizing and selling private property, putting an end to what some describe as “home equity theft.”

Before this ruling, Massachusetts, along with 11 other states, allowed municipalities to foreclose on private property when taxes were overdue and keep all the proceeds, even if the taxes owed were a fraction of that amount.

McIntyre said that the town is awaiting word from the state on what this means for the sale process — if the town would hold the proceeds in an escrow account or if the owners would need to file a petition to claim their portion of the sale, as an example.

“There’s nothing yet we can do, so we’re sitting on these properties,” McIntyre said.

Max Bowen can be reached at 413-930-4074 or