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City of Penticton agrees to compensate vulnerable woman after house sold in municipal tax sale

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Victoria – In the wake of an investigation into a municipal tax sale which resulted in a vulnerable 60-year-old woman losing her home, the City of Penticton has today agreed to compensate the former property owner as recommended by the Ombudsperson.

“I am very pleased that city council has accepted our recommendation that Ms. Wilson receive compensation,” said Ombudsperson Jay Chalke. “This outcome clearly demonstrates that it’s never too late to do the right thing.”

The Ombudsperson’s report released last week titled A Bid for Fairness details the case of “Ms. Wilson” whose personal challenges made it difficult for her to pay her property tax bill, even though she had the funds. Her failure to pay resulted in her home being sold in a tax sale auction, a statutory process that allows municipalities to collect unpaid taxes by selling properties two years after taxes are first due.

The Ombudsperson’s report found the City of Penticton’s correspondence to Ms. Wilson contained numerous errors and the city did not do enough to find out why Ms. Wilson was not paying her taxes. The report highlights that the city should have contacted the Public Guardian and Trustee or Interior Health given the pending sale of Ms. Wilson’s home.

The Ombudsperson’s investigation also examined gaps in the provincial legislative framework governing tax sales. The report made five recommendations to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs including developing plain language template letters for tax sales, amending the Local Government Act to require municipalities to provide adequate notice to property owners, studying the issue of linking minimum bids to property values rather than taxes owing and issuing best practice guidelines to municipalities about how to protect vulnerable people whose homes are at risk of a tax sale. As indicated at the time of the release of the Ombudsperson’s report, the ministry accepted all recommendations made to it.

The report also recommended that the City of Penticton compensate Ms. Wilson in the amount of $140,922.88, representing approximately one-half of her lost equity. In the city’s response, included in the Ombudsperson’s report, the city initially rejected the Ombudsperson’s recommendation.  Today Penticton City Council voted to implement the Ombudsperson’s recommendation and compensate Ms. Wilson.  “I am pleased that the city government took another look at our recommendation. I also wish to thank city staff who provided my office with the information we needed to conduct our investigation,” said Chalke.

To read the full report, please click here