Sheriff’s sales start back up in Kent Co.

On Aug. 6, the Kent County Sheriff’s Office conducted its first sale since a coronavirus-related stay on gatherings was rescinded. (Submitted photo/Kent County Sheriff’s Office)

DOVER — Last week, the Kent County Sheriff’s Office conducted its first sale since March, generating $5,280 in commissions on five properties sold.

The sales list began with 28 properties before dropping to five Aug. 6. About 30 people attended the proceedings, according to Sheriff Brian Lewis.

Sales were halted four months due to coronavirus-related state of emergency orders. The moratorium was lifted July 1.

The session ran from 10-10:45 a.m. at the Kent County Recreation Center’s outdoor pavilion at 1683 New Burton Road, Dover. The next sale is slated for Sept. 3 at the same place and time.

The location was moved from the typical Levy Court Administration Building chambers due to social distancing requirements.

“I anticipated some issues with parking and attendees not being in compliance with COVID-19 regulations.” Sheriff Lewis said. “This was not the case, and everyone complied and wore facial masks.”

Sheriff’s deputies directed attendees where to park, and county Parks & Recreation Division staff assisted in setting up a tent, seating and a public address system, the sheriff said.

Two secretaries processed paperwork at the sale, and four deputies attended. Sheriff Lewis said he’s the only sheriff in Delaware who presides over and officiates the auctions himself.

“I felt it was about time to focus on a solution, not the problem, and resume the sheriff sales as long as we were able to in a healthy and safe manner,” he said.

According to Sheriff Lewis, “My office had to make sure the plaintiff could establish exemption from the federal moratorium. This appears to relate to limitations on certain mortgages — Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and (Federal Housing Administration).”

The county receives $100 for each sale scheduled and $100 for each one that actually goes to auction, but also gets 4% commission based on the sale price of the property, according to the sheriff. Each property can range anywhere from $500 to $10,000, he said.

Before scheduling the sale, Sheriff Lewis began communicating with the governor’s office in June to seek guidance on when or whether the process could move forward.

In a June 25 email, state Deputy Legal Counsel Jacqueline Paradee Mette noted, “We appreciate your efforts to consider the need for social distancing and face coverings and an outdoor setting for the sale, and appreciate your outreach to the governor’s office.”

The prior day, Sheriff Lewis had contacted the governor’s office for guidance and consideration for amending the directive, noting that the sales bring “a substantial amount of revenue into the county through fees, etc.”

“My concern is if the sales no longer proceed, it will have an economic and financial impact on Kent County,” he added.

Last month, Delaware Gov. Carney lifted the moratorium relating to residential foreclosure action “unless the court determines that a longer period is necessary in the interest of justice.”

Ms. Mette noted that the coronavirus-related state of emergency “does not address or apply to a county monitions sale due to a tax lien under … Delaware Code.”

“If the county elects to proceed with its tax lien monitions sales, so long as it follows the current guidance on gathering limits/social distancing/face coverings from the state of emergency,” they would be allowed, she said.

The county’s next monitions sale, to collect delinquent taxes, is scheduled for October, Sheriff Lewis said.

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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