All owners of real property in the United States must pay property taxes. The tax amount is based on the property’s assessed value. Property taxes become due on November 1 and must be paid no later than March 31. Property taxes become delinquent on April 1 following the year of assessment.
In short, when a homeowner fails to pay their property taxes, Florida law permits the taxing authority to place a lien on the property.
Can you lose your house if you owe property taxes?
When a lien is placed on a property, the lien acts as collateral for the tax debt. The taxing authority may sell that lien in a public auction. A lien is auctioned off to an investor who is willing to pay off the tax debt in exchange for future payment of the debt plus interest. The lien is auctioned to the bidder who poses the lowest interest rate. If there are no bids on a particular lien, it would be “struck off” to the County at 18%; the highest interest rate allowed by Florida Statutes. This auction is referred to as a tax certificate sale and the successful bidder will be issued a tax lien certificate.
The lien certificate, or tax certificate is not a purchase of property and the holder will not have a claim to the property. However, two years after April 1 of the year the tax collector issued the certificate, but no later than seven years afterwards, the tax certificate holder may place a tax deed application on the property. After a tax deed is made, the property will be scheduled for auction and sold to the highest bidder. If that happens, the owner of the property will have lost any claim or ownership on it.
How to redeem the property?
Florida law requires that at least 20 days prior to a tax deed sale, the lienholder give the property owner notice of the sale by certified mail. Notice must also be published in a newspaper or posted publicly. So long as the lienholder files a tax deed application before the seven-year statute of limitations expires, the county will hold a tax deed auction and will sell the home to the highest bidder. Once the tax deed application has been filed, the original property owner will have a chance to redeem the property. The window to redeem is very short and the owner must act fast. The homeowner has until the county clerk receives full payment for the tax deed, or the county clerk issues the tax deed. To redeem the property, the homeowner will have to pay the full amount of the lien, along will all interests and costs.
Thus, if you find yourself in a position where you become delinquent on property tax payments, be sure to pay off the amount before the debt become two years delinquent. If you wish to gain more information about property tax laws, please consider talking to one of our attorneys.