NEW ORLEANS — In Louisiana, if taxes are owed on a property then that property can be sold to pay those taxes — without paying the property owner.
A few N.O. homeowners are paying the price of not being able to pay property taxes: Losing their homes.
Delores Bishop lived in the 9th Ward and was evicted from her home in late January.
Bishop, a Navy veteran who's paid off her mortgage, couldn't afford to pay the taxes on her home — about $4800. Bishop didn't pay the back taxes, allowing, Precept Capital to pay taxes and eventually get the home she lived in for over 30 years.
"My stuff was put on the curb; I've been embarrassed and humiliated," Bishop said.
Former Judge C. Hunter King said while the process of acquiring the home was legal, the question people should ask is "Is this ethical?"
"An individual, elderly in particular, should not be put out of their home because of them not being able to pay property tax," King said.
King said according to Louisiana law, the person, group, or company who paid the back taxes must put out a notice to make sure the homeowner is aware.
The homeowner has about three years to pay the property taxes, but if they can't pay the back taxes with interest, the purchaser can move forward to acquiring the property and the homeowner lost their home.
"This could be your mother. This could be your aunt. This could be your father. I encourage everyone, every pastor, everyone who is in the city of New Orleans to go — if you have an elderly person in your family you need to go and check up on them," King said.
WWLTV checked with Precept Capital out of Texas in February. Over the phone, staff said the original owner could get her home back at market value which was around $100,000.
She's not the only person who lost a home this way.
Travis Michael renovated his childhood home in New Orleans East.
Michael spent about $30,000 to fix the roof, siding, repairing termite damage, replace the windows.
Michael said his home was damaged, left blighted after Katrina.
Earlier this year, he learned that his mom owed back taxes, about $4800 which Michael paid for 2016-2018.
He continued to renovate his home, but later, he got an eviction notice in October. Michael didn't pay the back taxes in 2015. Michael said an outside company Libertas paid those taxes.
"Man, that's a feeling. That's like someone coming in your house and throwing you on the street," he said. "If I wasn't a God a fearing man, ain't no telling what I would have done."
WWLTV asked Libertas, the group Michael said paid the taxes on his home, if and when Micheal can purchase his home back. Libertas has not responded.