Luzerne County properties with big-ticket tax delinquencies headed for auction

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - jandes@timesleader.com
Once home of the Town and Country furniture store, this property on South Main Street in Wilkes-Barre carries $113,721 in delinquent taxes and is headed to auction, Luzerne County tax claim records show. - Luzerne County assessment photo

Several big-ticket real estate tax delinquency cases are scheduled for auction in June and October, according to Luzerne County’s tax claim office.

An industrial print shop on Foote Avenue in Duryea carries the highest unpaid tax debt — $503,683. The property owner, T P Corporation, stopped paying taxes in 2006.

Properties must be auctioned if taxes have gone unpaid for two years unless the owner is complying with a repayment plan, is involved in an active bankruptcy proceeding or obtains a court order.

In this case, T P filed a bankruptcy in September 2008.

After unsuccessfully trying to sell the property through a Realtor in 2008, the bankruptcy trustee filed a notice to abandon the property in November 2010 because the outstanding taxes and other debt exceeded the value of the property, which is assessed at $1.1 million, a court filing said.

Government cleanup of severe environmental issues discovered at the site caused further delays bringing the 1-acre property to auction, said Dyan E. Dinstel, an attorney with Northeast Revenue Service LLC, which took over as county tax-claim operator in 2010.

The property is slated for an Oct. 25 judicial or free-and-clear auction in which liens and delinquent taxes are cleared. In this type of sale, taxing bodies share the payment offered by the highest bidder, which usually does not cover all taxes owed.

To advance to a free-and-clear sale, properties must be unsold in a first-stage “upset sale” that requires bidders to pay all taxes owed and accept responsibility for any outstanding mortgages and liens.

Lengthy debt

A manufacturing building at 55 W. Seventh St. in Wyoming in the October auction has a longer-running delinquency — $184,904 in unpaid taxes dating back more than two decades to 1996.

JPM Realty, the property owner, filed for bankruptcy in 1997 and 2010, court records show.

During a review of all delinquent properties on hold due to bankruptcies, Northeast Revenue discovered the second bankruptcy had terminated in 2012. Dinstel said property owners don’t have to notify tax claim when their bankruptcies have ended, prompting her company to implement an ongoing monitoring plan.

The JPM property includes 2.33 acres and most recently housed a cabinet and counter business. It is assessed at $248,400.

Some other properties listed in the October sale, along with background from county records and Northeast Revenue:

• A commercial store at 257-259 S. Main St. in Wilkes-Barre — $113,721 in unpaid taxes from 2011 through 2017.

Once home of the Town and Country furniture store, the property also has housed the Rides & Rhythms auto parts store and a cell phone repair shop.

The property was sold twice to limited liability corporations since 2015, but the back taxes were not paid through those transactions. The current owner is Main Street Warehouse & Storage LLC.

Notice of the sale could not be served to Main Street Warehouse because its listed corporate address does not physically exist, Dinstel said. In such cases, Northeast Revenue must publicly advertise special sales notices to parties that cannot be reached despite exhaustive attempts.

• A former manufacturing building on Oregon Street in Wilkes-Barre owned by Bernard Rockman — $305,480 in taxes owed from 2005 through 2017.

The 56,600-square-foot building, which is assessed at $507,900, was kept out of sales over the years due to two bankruptcies, two court actions and two repayment plans that were not honored, according to county officials.

Rockman purchased the 2.4-acre property, which once housed Nicholson Steam Trap Inc., for $300,000 in 1995 to house Beroc Inc., a family bakery equipment supply business.

Family member Jeffrey Rockman had blamed the debt on high taxes in 2014 and said maintaining the cavernous, brick industrial structure built in 1890 was challenging, particularly amid several break-ins. He also predicted the property would become a vacant nuisance if someone without financial means bought the structure cheap at a tax auction.

Among the properties listed in the June 28 free-and-clear auction:

• The former Great Northern Press property on Gilligan Street in Hanover Township and Wilkes-Barre — a combined $372,417 in taxes owed on three parcels dating to 2007.

Owned by Greenville, South Carolina-based Business Loan Center LLC, Northeast Revenue flagged the property in 2016 because it had been coded as a bankruptcy before the company took over tax claim, but no bankruptcy case was found in Pennsylvania. Digging revealed the property had been part of a bankruptcy involving another company outside the area, and that case terminated in 2011.

Combined, the parcels are assessed at $863,900 and total more than 7 acres.

• A residence on Clifton Court in Hanover Township owned by Stanley and Molly Tarutis — $87,623 in back taxes owed from 2009 to 2017.

The property was removed from past sales because the owners filed for bankruptcy five years in a row. As part of its ongoing effort to crack down on potential abuses of the bankruptcy shield from tax auctions, Northeast Revenue convinced the bankruptcy judge to lift the automatic stay so the property can proceed to sale.

To get out of the upcoming auctions, property owners must pay all taxes owed through 2017.

Information on the auction and bidding is available at www.luzernecountytaxclaim.com.

Once home of the Town and Country furniture store, this property on South Main Street in Wilkes-Barre carries $113,721 in delinquent taxes and is headed to auction, Luzerne County tax claim records show.
https://www.psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/web1_taxsale.jpegOnce home of the Town and Country furniture store, this property on South Main Street in Wilkes-Barre carries $113,721 in delinquent taxes and is headed to auction, Luzerne County tax claim records show. Luzerne County assessment photo
One sale is next month

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

jandes@timesleader.com

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.