In an effort to better keep track of taxes owed, the city will now be notified when a mobile home in Westbrook is sold.

The Hamlet is a trailer park neighborhood off of Saco Street, for which city officials say they have a hard time tracking sales taxes. Chance Viles / American Journal

The City Council gave unanimous approval to the ordinance change Monday after agreeing to write off $22,703 in unpaid property taxes on mobile homes at the Hamlet that became uncollectable after cash transactions.

The Hamlet Manufactured Home Community off Saco Street has 288 mobile homes on leased sites.

Normally the city is notified about home sales, and it can inform buyers who have purchased a house on which real estate taxes are owed and make a plan with them to pay those taxes, Mayor Mike Foley explained.

Affixed mobile homes, like those at the Hamlet, are charged property taxes, but often their sales are often cash transactions and treated more like personal property sales than real estate sales. Before the city learns of a mobile home sale, the previous owner, who may owe taxes to the city, may have moved, leaving the buyer unware of taxes owed, Foley explained.

John Henry Jordan, operations director for Virginia-based Racap that oversees the park, said he supports the change overall, but asked the council to push off their vote to give his company time to work on a sales reporting system.

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Racap currently does not oversee sales of homes in the park, Jordan said.

“The Hamlet is a land lease, so it doesn’t participate in a sale,” he said. “Closings are face-to-face by seller, and we are not always privy to information the city is requesting. As a land lease community, we require proof of ownership (to lease), but we do not particularly receive (the sale price) when it’s person to person.” 

Foley said the Hamlet could require the sales prices, but Jordan said he didn’t know if Recap has the legal authority require them in their leasing paperwork.

“They do require proof of ownership, so they can require proof of this information to execute the lease, and we feel that is more than fair,” Foley said at the meeting.

Hamlet manager Mike Hicks told the American Journal Monday he receives an annual notification of sales that incudes the date of sale and the new homeowner’s name, but he said he will work around any changes.

“If they’d like more than that, and if they are changing the ordinance to do that, then we will,” Hicks said.

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The change is based on a similar rule in Gorham, Foley said.

“This new ordinance will help our assessing department along with tax collector to keep records more accurate and ensure we are attempting to collect taxes from the proper owner,” he said. 

The city has recouped over $1.4 million in owed taxes over the past year thanks to ordinance changes in August 2020 that allowed it to sell land with significant taxes owed, Foley said. Some of the owed taxes dated back to 1998.

The city pulls in about $40 million in property taxes annually.

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