D.C. tax liens allow investors to target poor areas for foreclosures

WASHINGTON (AP) - An investigation has found the District of Columbia government is allowing private investors to pursue foreclosure on hundreds of homes over unpaid tax bills, but many debts are less than $500.

The Washington Post reports the District government for decades has placed liens on properties when homeowners did not pay their tax bills. Liens are sold at auction for investors to collect the debts.

But the program has grown into a system where $500 tax bills morph into $5,000 debts. Investors charge homeowners thousands in fees.

Retired Marine Sgt. Bennie Coleman lost his home two years ago over a $134 property tax bill. Another woman lost her home to a Maryland investor over a tax debt of $45 while she was struggling with Alzheimer's.

Many foreclosures target poor neighborhoods.