The man has dementia and the woman is bedridden, none of which mattered when they were evicted.
In an outrageous, completely legal move in Albion, Maine, an elderly couple in their 80s was recently thrown out of their home after they forgot to pay property taxes on the home they had lived in for the past 33 years.
National Guard and Marine veteran Richard Sukeforth and his wife, Leonette, were kicked out of their home after Richard, who suffers from dementia, failed to pay the taxes of the house for one year. Their children were completely unaware of the fact that they hadn’t paid the taxes and, in fact, when they asked Richard, he would claim that he had paid the bill. The Selectwoman for the town said that this had happened before and that Richard had been warned, but that he still failed to pay the taxes.
While this may seem justifiable because the eviction coincided with the law, it is morally reprehensible to kick an elderly couple enjoying the remaining years of their lives together out of the home that they’ve owned for several decades. It may be more appropriate to have them sent to a nursing home to be cared for rather than to send a veteran with dementia and his bedridden wife out on the streets.
The couple now live with their daughter in a trailer park in Holden, Maine after being evicted, but their story isn’t over. Maine Governor Paul LePage was disgusted after hearing of their story in December 2015, when the Sukeforth’s house was foreclosed, and has begun to seek out a change in legislation to ensure that this never happens again.
“I’m livid about it and I think we have to have laws to protect our most vulnerable,” LePage said in an interview with the Morning Sentinel. “I’m going to ask for an ombudsman to mediate disputes between communities and taxpayers, not just elderly. I want to change the foreclosure law as it relates to poverty, and one of the things I want to do is force [communities] to sell property at market value and any revenues above taxes and revenue and foreclosure fees go back to the original owner.”
In the Sukeforth’s case, their property only sold for $6,500, which is well below market value and just barely enough to pay off their debts.
LePage has a tendency to take others’ stories very personally, and this is what has caused him to be a successful and compassionate governor for Maine. He even offered to take the Sukeforth’s dog if they are unable to legally bring him to the trailer park. With just one story of an elderly couple that was wronged, he has been spurred into action so that no one suffers in this way again.
It is the hope of LePage that cases like this become less frequent until a new law can be enacted that forbids this from occurring to anyone struggling with poverty. A similar policy would be beneficial for everyone in the U.S., but since property taxes are handled at the state level, each state would have to individually attack this problem.
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