Dear Ann Landers, I just read a story in The Macomb Daily, a paper here in Michigan, about a 72-year-old resident of Pittsburgh. This man owns a salon and barbershop supply business, which he bought in 1983. He recently received a notice saying he owes a property tax bill of $1,151 that goes back to 1911, before this man was even born. It seems the debt had gone undetected, even though the property had changed hands several times.
When the man expressed his astonishment, he was told that the passage of time and the change in ownership did not make any difference. He still has to pay the back real estate taxes. I find this outrageous. -- Mary in Warren, Mich.
Dear Mary, It is good of you to take up this man's cause, but I'm afraid he is stuck. According to Dominick Gambino, administrative assistant to the Allegheny County controller, anyone who buys property is responsible for the outstanding tax liens. In this instance, however, the tax lien was so old, it did not show up on a standard title search when the man bought the property back in 1983.
The county sold its tax liens to a private company in 1997, which then discovered the old debt when it began cleaning up the county's records. You will be pleased to know that the beauty supply owner has title insurance that ought to cover it.