(WMC-TV) - For as little as a few hundred dollars in back taxes, homeowners could lose their homes.
A national consumer group is putting out the consumer alert that senior citizens and other vulnerable homeowners could lose their homes for as little as $400.
"Definitely the elderly, people on fixed income, people with low incomes," said Tim Wilson, Memphis Area Legal Services.
Tim Wilson has been with Memphis Area Legal Services the past six years.
He says obscure, outdated laws and misinformation can be confusing for seniors and communities with large minority populations, many of whom were targeted by the sub prime lenders
"The county and the city would much rather have your money than sell your property, they are more than willing to work out payment plans with people," said Wilson.
Here is how the issue works:
The government files a public document called a tax lien saying it can seize the property if the tax remains unpaid.
If taxes are not paid, the government auctions the lien to investors. Past investors include JP Morgan Chase, Bank Of America, and people who respond to get rich quick schemes.
The homeowner can buy back the home by paying the price of the lien plus interest and fees. If not, investors can sell the home at a big profit.
If you are in this bind, Memphis Area Legal Services can help.
"It's a very complicated process and it would be better having an attorney do and it's something we will do for free," said Wilson.
But right now, the issue is getting the word out to help people avoid this hassle and keep them in their homes.
If you need help from Memphis Area Legal Services, call 901-523-8822.