An 83-year-old retired engineer in Michigan underpaid his property taxes by $8.41. In response, Oakland County seized his property, auctioned it off to settle the debt, and pocketed nearly $24,500 in excess revenue from the sale.
Under Michigan law, it was all legal. And hardly uncommon.
Just so you know, you voted to have someone else's home taken from them, by force, over the smallest sums of cash. #Merica #MAGA
Which means there will be more people like Uri Rafeali, who lost a home over an $8.41 mistake. His property, bought as an investment, is valued at an estimated $136,000. The penalty imposed by Oakland County was more than 8,000 percent greater than the underlying debt.
But today, while the legal battle over its fate plays out, the house sits empty. It generates no tax revenue for the city or county. It earns no money for Rafaeli or his wife in their retirement.
"The Constitution was written to prevent the government from violating a right that preexists the Constitution," says Martin. "If this can happen to multimillionaires and to the poor, to the elderly….If this can happen to Mr. Rafaeli, it can happen to anyone."