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Governor’s Address: The Legislature Fails To Make Our Elderly a Priority

Nothing is more important than keeping our elderly in their homes. I am disappointed that the legislature significantly watered down my bill to help them.

Legislative leaders caved to the Maine Municipal Association and watered down my bill. While the new law adds protections for the elderly, municipalities can still sell their homes and keep the equity.

Sadly, it appeared our elderly were not a priority for Democrat or Senate Republican leaders. And we know they are not a priority for the Maine Municipal Association.

We have been trying all year to get my bill passed to prevent municipalities from foreclosing on the homes of elderly citizens who have fallen behind on their tax bills.

It was a simple, innocuous bill that would not burden municipalities, and it would keep our elderly in the homes they worked so hard to buy.

Many of our senior citizens are on fixed incomes, and they are struggling to pay rising property taxes. But municipalities were allowed under the law to foreclose and sell the property for the amount of taxes owed.

Homeowners have many protections if a foreclosure involves a mortgage. When the bank forecloses, it sells the house and pays the homeowner any remaining equity after all debts are paid.

However, in a municipal foreclosure, when a senior citizen owns the home outright, those protections disappeared. There was no requirement that the municipality sell the property at market value, and there was no requirement that the balance of the equity is returned to the homeowner.

These are elderly people living on fixed incomes. Their home’s value is their only savings.

My bill required that when a municipality forecloses on a homeowner age 65 or older, the property would be sold by an independent broker at market value. All of the town’s expenses and the broker fee would be paid from the proceeds of the sale, with the balance refunded to the former owner. This makes the town whole, while at the same time providing the senior with the rest of the home’s equity.

But legislative leadership didn’t support my bill as written. Senate Republican and Democratic leaders supported a watered-down bill. Our elderly have some protections now, but they can still be forced out of their homes without any guarantee of receiving the equity.

It’s unfortunate that Democrat and Republican leaders didn’t fight for our elderly. Instead, they would rather side with the Maine Municipal Association, which argued this simple bill would somehow hurt municipalities.

Our bill takes no revenue away from towns. But towns should not get one more penny from a senior – or any other taxpayer – than what is owed, and seniors deserve the equity from their own home.

Democrat and Republican leaders still don’t seem to understand the plight of the elderly. I will keep reminding them that they must do right by our seniors.

Thank you.

Paul LePage


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