Elderly and other vulnerable homeowners are losing their homes simply because they owe a few hundred dollars in back taxes to local governments, according to the National Consumer Law Center.
The group said in a recent report that outdated laws give states and local governments the right to sell homes when residents fall behind on their taxes.
In some cases, homeowners have lost their dwellings over as little as $400.
NCLC attorney and the report's author John Rao said the consequences are "devastating for individuals, families and communities."
The group recommends state governments make it easier for homeowners to get their homes back after tax lien sales, as well as limit interest and penalties investors can charge.
During a tax lien, homeowners have a limited time to buy back their property by paying the investor's purchase price, plus penalties and other fees.
If they fail to pay, investors can sell the home -- often for a big profit.