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CHEROKEE COUNTY, SC (WSPA) Something unusual has been happening in Cherokee County and the city of Gaffney two delinquent tax sales where the same property is put up for auction twice.

It’s a system that’s not only costing taxpayers money but causing confusion and we wanted to know what the city and county are planning to do about it.

If there’s one thing auction bidders will tell you, it’s not for the faint of heart. At car sales, once you win a bid, you own, no matter what the condition.

And when it comes to delinquent property tax sales, the risk is even greater.

“I was excited about it and I couldn’t believe that you could actually purchase a property for $1100,” said Lizzie Frawley in Spartanburg.

She got the winning bid on this Willow street home in Gaffney during the city’s auction in 2016.

And when the original owner didn’t claim the property after one year, she thought it was hers.

“That’s when I found out that someone else had bid on the property in Dec of 2016, and so he told me at that time he says, in addition to the county taxes I paid, you need to pay the county bidder out, I said pay the bidder out, I said that doesn’t make sense, I already purchased this property, why would they sell this property twice. He said, I’m not sure what happened, but they had it listed twice,” she said.

Unlike most cities across the state, Gaffney holds a separate delinquent tax sale from the County, about a month apart.

That means from time to time, there are two winning bidders, one from the city, and one from the county.

Attorney Ken Anthony says it’s unusual,
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but not against the law.

“It’s legal, there’s a law that says that this can happen. All the law does is to allow these entities to try to collect their taxes somehow,” said Anthony.

See, you’re not actually buying a house at a delinquent property tax sale, you’re buying that seller’s stake in the house, and there can be many entities that have a claim: unpaid city taxes, county taxes, IRS liens and the mortgage company, so name a few.

Frawley was willing to pay county taxes but it didn’t sit right with her that she or any other person in her situation should have to buy out a county bidder including interest at 12%.

“I felt like, that I had been taken advantage of. I felt like other people had been taken advantage of. To me, it wasn’t about the money you have a fiduciary responsibility to do what’s right for your customers. And I was a customer of the city and county of Gaffney. And they were going back and forth as to who was responsible. And someone should have taken responsibility for that. And they didn’t”

“Common sense says you wouldn’t want to sell the same property twice to two different people,” said Bill Blanton who just stepped into the interim Cherokee County Administrator job a few weeks ago.

He told us he’s not sure why the city and the county have been doing separate sales.

How it slipped through the cracks or why it was done the way it was, I don’t know, I can’t answer that all I know is I’m going to give the council the information they desire, and I’m sure them and the city is going to correct it, I’m confident of that,” said Blanton.

As for the city, Administrator James Taylor says it’s up to the bidder to know how the system works.

“Most of the investors are sophisticated and they have done their research. But there is occasionally some confusion, so obviously if there is one sale, that cuts down on that confusion,” said Taylor.

“We are working on that. We are in discussions with Cherokee County on that,” he added.

Frawley got her money back from the city, but not because she refused to buy out the bidder.

“There was a minor legal technicality so therefore we voided the sale and refunded the money. And because it was a legal issue, I’m not going to discuss that particular legal issue,
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” Taylor explained.