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Tax liens filed against 2,600 Scranton properties

Scranton has now asked Lackawanna County's Tax Claim Bureau to halt the lien process.

SCRANTON, Pa. — Some delinquent taxpayers in the city of Scranton were surprised to learn this month that liens could be put on their properties.

Rosemary Torda of Scranton knew she was behind on her 2020 property taxes. She did not know that just a few months into 2021, she would have a lien put on her home. 

Torda received a letter at the beginning of this month from the Lackawanna County Tax Claim Bureau telling her the lien would be filed this week. She can start a payment plan but will have to pay additional attorney's fees and nine percent interest. 

She's been behind before, and in the past, had two years to pay up before a lien. 

"I know I was behind a year, but all of a sudden, I couldn't understand why they're putting a tax lien on our property because we're only behind a year in taxes. I could see if we're a couple of years behind, but it's only a year, and they're going to do this to us?" Torda said.

Last year, the Lackawanna County Tax Claim Bureau agreed to collect delinquent taxes on behalf of the city of Scranton. County officials told Newswatch 16 they are filing the liens on Scranton properties because that's what state law and Scranton's own rules require. 

Other municipalities in Lackawanna County don't have to follow those same rules. 

The county filed liens against 2,600 homes and businesses in Scranton this week. 

Newswatch 16 talked to Scranton Mayor Paige Cognetti, who said the city was not told that was going to happen. So, her administration has asked the county to halt the lien process.

"The April timeline in these letters was not agreed to, we are their client, and they are our agent, and it was unacceptable to me, for our residents, that these letters went out without working with the city," Mayor Cognetti said.

Rosemary Torda relies on rental income that she hasn't been able to collect during the pandemic because of the federal stimulus bill. She had hoped she would get some grace from her local government as her debts continue to grow.

"I've lived here 61 years; it's my homestead, it's mom and dad's home. I don't want to lose it, you know? And that's what they're going to make us do," she said.

The city's decision to now halt the lien process will buy time for homeowners like Torda. She said she will do all she can with that time to avoid losing her home.