4,000 properties facing foreclosure in Berrien County

It's a sign of the times, foreclosure signs on thousands of doors.

Close to 4,000 properties in Berrien County are now facing foreclosure. That's a 40 percent jump from last year.

In Michigan, property tax forfeiture is a three year process.

Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski said, "If you haven't paid your 2010 taxes, your property could potentially be foreclosed on in March of 2013."

Some of the hardest areas hit are certain Benton Harbor neighborhoods.

Resident Patricia Pratt has lived in Benton Harbor her whole life and said she's seen people come and go a lot lately. "The elderly people that have bought houses through the years, they're losing them."

But Witkowski said the county wants desperately for people to keep their homes and businesses. "Our goal here at the county is not to be the largest land owner. We want to work with people to keep their properties and we do that to the n-th degree."

The county offers payment plans and has had a 90 percent success rate so far with those who sign up for the plans. The plans allow people to pay smaller amounts monthly. Witkowski said that most who use one of the plans get to keep their properties.

Under state law, properties with unpaid 2010 taxes on March 1 will be turned over to the county. $200 fees are also assessed to properties that go into forfeiture and a monthly interest fee of 1.5 percent of the unpaid taxes is charged by the treasurer's office.

To learn more about payment plans with Berrien County, contact the treasurer's office at (269) 983-7111 or visit their office at the Berrien County Administration Building on Main St. in St. Joseph.

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