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Detroit property tax lawsuit will have a new day in court

Detroit skyline

A federal court has revived a lawsuit by Detroit homeowners who say the city was too late delivering property tax appeal notices.

The homeowners filed a lawsuit claiming that in 2017, the city didn’t send out 260,000 residential property tax notices property tax assessments until just four days before a deadline to appeal them.

The notices tell residents their property assessments, the values of their home, which tax bills are based on, and how to appeal them.

The homeowners say the late notices violated their rights and that the city didn't do enough to notify residents of an extended appeal deadline.

The ruling said that the City of Detroit “made a mistake” and “did not take reasonable steps to ensure information would reach individual taxpayers.

Marie Sheehan is with the Coalition for Property Tax Justice.

"People are hoping that through this process Detroit will reform the way its administering property taxes and give Detroiters more fair notice moving forward so they have the opportunity to genuinely protest any over-assessment of their property taxes," she said.

The Coalition for Property Tax Justice wants the city to compensate residents who were over-assessed or lost their homes. They want to stop unconstitutional property tax assessments and to stop tax foreclosures until these demands are met.

"The City of Detroit and the state of Michigan aren’t taking necessary and available steps to stop the ongoing over-assessment of property taxes. All the tools to do that are available to the city and state but they’re refusal to take those steps means we have to turn to federal court," Sheehan said.

Detroit Deputy Corporation Counsel Chuck Raimi said he’s disappointed by the ruling and will vigorously defend the city's position in court.

"The city of Detroit failed to give Detroit homeowners a clear path to appeal their property tax assessments in 2017," said Rami Fakhouri, the lead attorney for the homeowners. "We are pleased that a federal court will hear claims regarding Detroit’s untimely and excessive 2017 tax notices on the merits, and we look forward to pursuing those claims vigorously upon remand.”

Briana Rice is Michigan Public's criminal justice reporter. She's focused on what Detroiters need to feel safe and whether they're getting it.