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Vermont Legal Aid sues Barton and Orleans over alleged unconstitutional home seizure

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BARTON — Vermont Legal Aid has filed a lawsuit against the Town of Barton and the Village of Orleans, alleging unconstitutional practices in property tax sales. The legal action, representing 66-year-old Penny Flynn, challenges the sale of her five-bedroom home for a mere $6,550, a fraction of its nearly $80,000 assessed value.

Flynn, a retired resident relying on Social Security, lost significant equity and potential generational wealth when her property was seized for a tax delinquency far below its market value. The lawsuit highlights the plight of Flynn’s daughter and her partner, who were compelled to leave the home for unstable housing conditions.

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The federal lawsuit seeks damages for violations of the Takings, Excessive Fines, and Due Process Clauses of the U.S. Constitution, Vermont Constitution provisions, and against unjust enrichment under Vermont common law.

This legal action is influenced by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Tyler v. Hennepin County, Minnesota, which identified a constitutional violation in a similar tax sale scenario.

Attorneys Grace Pazdan and Greg Fox, leading the case, emphasize the impact of tax sales on Vermont’s vulnerable populations. They point out the disproportionate use of tax sales in certain towns like Barton, exacerbating the state’s housing crisis.

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The lawsuit aims to reform the tax sale process, advocating for standardized procedures and fair compensation for property owners in similar situations.

Vermont Legal Aid’s initiative also involves legislative efforts, notably supporting House Bill 629, which seeks to refine property tax abatement and sale processes.

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