Baton Rouge, Louisiana
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House bid on at parish tax sale after homeowner's mail issues

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BATON ROUGE - A woman living in Texas says her mail was not delivered on time and her property went up for tax sale.

Debe Goree says the whole thing could have been avoided if she'd been able to pay her fees online.

For years, Goree has owned a home on Stutgart Avenue in Baton Rouge. For the past decade, her stepdad has been living in it under one condition, that he pays the property taxes.

This year, it slipped his mind and Goree didn't find out until very recently. It left her scrambling to pick up the pieces.

The deadline to pay her property taxes online had passed. She sent a check by certified mail to a Baton Rouge P.O. Box on Friday, Oct. 13. The check had to be in the hands of the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office by Oct. 18 or it would go up for tax sale.

"The post office here says it's been in the box since the 15th," said Goree.

But it wasn't. The sheriff's office says it never received the certified mail and that each day, a deputy visits the post office to pick up the mail from the P.O. Box and takes it to city hall.

Goree's Baton Rouge house was bid on at Wednesday's parish tax sale. A third party buyer paid the delinquent taxes and a lien has been placed on the property. The sheriff's office said it sent out a certified notice and put the list of properties with delinquent taxes in the paper along with payment due date.

Of 3,121 houses that went up for tax sale, 764 were bid on.

United States Postal Service tracking information shows that while the certified envelope had been in Baton Rouge since the Oct. 15, it circulated the City-Parish and arrived at its P.O. Box on Oct. 18. But it was not available for pick-up until Oct. 19. All that time cost Goree peace of mind and some extra money.

"I'm being penalized for their lack of professionalism," she said. "Then I will have to pay additional penalties, additional interest, and fees."

Friday afternoon, the sheriff's office says it finally received the check in the mail. There's still hope for Goree who will have to pay some extra fees, which include a five percent penalty and one percent interest for each month the lien is not paid.

The sheriff's office says she has an opportunity to redeem her property November 1. If Goree does not redeem the property in three years, the third party buyer can start the process of buying the house.


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