WFG Underwriting Counsel to Head Effort to Revise Louisiana’s Tax Sale Laws

January 14, 2014

The Louisiana State Law Institute (LSLI) has selected Stephen Sklamba, Louisiana underwriting counsel for WFG National Title Insurance Company, to chair a committee that will recommend changes in the state law governing tax sales and study the feasibility of adopting a tax lien process in Louisiana.

As reporter of the LSLI’s New Tax Sale Committee, Sklamba will oversee an effort to untangle problems that have made it difficult for purchasers of tax sale properties to obtain title insurance.

A past president of the Louisiana Land Title Association, Sklamba served as co-chairman of the association’s legislative committee between 2003 and 2011. That committee drafted more than 50 title-related bills that became law during that period.

The legislature substantially overhauled the tax sale procedures in 2008, approving changes designed to make purchasers of tax sale properties rather than tax collectors responsible for conducting title searches and notifying interested parties, Sklamba explained. But subsequent amendments to the revised law now require that interested parties receive notice before properties can be sold, shifting the administrative burden and expense back to tax collectors.

“Drafting a law that resolves these problems and addresses the varied interests that must be considered won’t be easy,” Sklamba said. “Fortunately, the members of the committee are experienced attorneys and public officials who are familiar with the legal and economic issues involved.”

The committee has also been charged with studying the pros and cons of replacing the tax sale process with a tax-lien system that many other states use. Under that system, municipalities can sell liens they levy on properties with outstanding tax bills. The purchaser of the lien can enforce it if the owner fails to pay the taxes.

The committee’s proposals must be approved first by the council of the Louisiana State Law Institute and then by the Louisiana legislature. Any amendments to the Louisiana Constitution must also be approved by the voters.