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A bill that would make it harder for Baltimore City to put owner-occupied homes up for tax sales because of unpaid taxes or water and sewer liens received final approval Wednesday from the General Assembly.

The Senate-approved bill, sponsored by Baltimore Democratic Sen. Nathaniel McFadden, passed the House 136-3 and will now go to Gov. Larry Hogan for his signature. The Senate also approved the House bill, sponsored by Baltimore Democratic Del. Nathaniel Oaks, unanimously.

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The legislation, which has the support of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, raises the minimum amount of unpaid taxes that could trigger a tax sale from $250 to $750. The new threshold for water and sewer liens would also be $750, up from $350.

The original bill set the limit at $500 but lawmakers changed it to $750.

In a tax sale, the city sells a homeowner's debt to an investor who then tries to collect the debt plus interest from that owner. If the homeowner does not repay both, t+he investor can foreclose on the property. 

Such debts can grow to thousands of dollars with court costs and legal fees. To address that, the bill also also permits the city administration to allow resident homeowners to redeem their homes though an installment plan.

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