Q: I have a problem. The City of Detroit/Wayne County illegally sold my house.

I have been paying taxes on my house since 1997, when I bought the house. I have a property deed to my house but so does the new property owner.

The new owners showed up at my house in December 2010 to inform me that they bought the house. I got a temporary reprieve by using an attorney, but that was short lived. These buyers have been in my neighborhood trying to buy other unknowingly home owners houses without their knowledge until it’s too late.

What should I do?

A: The real issue for you is to understand how someone else has been able to obtain title to your home.

In some cases homeowners lose their homes as a result of their failure to pay real estate taxes, as a result of their failure to pay their mortgage and a lender’s foreclosure of the mortgage, or as a result of a lawsuit in which a creditor is able to obtain title to your home. In certain other situations, if there is fraud or a forgery, someone can attempt to obtain title to a home.

You indicated that you are using an attorney to help you out, but your question does not explain the manner in which this other party has come to claim ownership to your home.

Even though you have paid taxes on the home since 1997, if you failed to make a payment or failed to pay the real estate tax bill in full and there was a balance outstanding on your account, a tax buyer might be able to purchase those unpaid taxes and end up with the title to the home.

From the limited information in your question it does not seem that the person that claims to own title to your home was a lender or had a claim against you that would entitle that person to title to your home. That would mean that the most likely scenario is that this person purchased unpaid real estate taxes on your home – taxes you failed to pay.

If you have not already done so, you should go to the real estate tax collector’s office and request to see if there were any taxes unpaid on your property, and then determine if you can undo the tax sale. Frequently, the people who work in the tax collector’s offices can be quite helpful. If you don’t get the assistance you need from them, you might need to hire a different attorney that may have more experience in tax sales and the possible redemption process you might have to go through to keep your property.

If you find out that it wasn’t unpaid taxes or other common situations, but rather a fraudulent deed that was recorded, you might have to go to the authorities to report the fraud.

In any event, you need to do a bit more investigating to understand your situation and figure out why you appear to have lost your home.