You’re Behind in Your Property Taxes. Now What?

Real Estate Law

As Benjamin Franklin noted, nothing is certain but death and taxes. If you own real property, that means property taxes.

But what if, channeling your inner rebel, you don’t pay? Then what?

Then the county tax commissioner can sell your property —house and all—to pay back taxes.

Briefly, here’s how it works.

County Tax Assessor’s Lien

On January 1 of each year, your property taxes come due.  Every year, by law, the county tax commissioner gets an automatic lien against your property to secure the payment of your property taxes.

A lien is a notice that attaches to real property which puts the world on notice that you owe a creditor money. When you go to refinance or sell your real property, the lien will prevent you from doing so until you pay the money you owe, The lien “clouds” title to the property and you must have “clear title” to sell or refinance.

For most liens, for example, unpaid car loans, although the creditor has the right to force a foreclosure on your real property to have the lien paid off, they generally won’t. This is because it is highly likely that your mortgage has priority over any other lien against the property. If the car loan creditor forced a foreclosure in order to get his car loan paid, he would end up having to make your mortgage payments.

So creditors that are owed money and have liens on your property don’t foreclose, they wait.

Lien Foreclosure

But when it comes to property tax liens, the tax commissioner has no hesitation at all in foreclosing on its lien.

After your property taxes become “past due,” if you continue to fail to pay them, the tax commissioner will start foreclosure proceedings. The tax commissioner will foreclose on your home and it will be sold at public auction to pay what you owe in back taxes.

The tax commissioner can proceed by nonjudicial tax sale (which does not involve the courts and is generally faster and cheaper) or by judicial tax sale (which is a court proceeding and generally takes longer and is more expensive.)

It is most common for the tax commissioner to proceed by the faster, less expensive, nonjudicial foreclosure tax sale. In Georgia, nonjudicial foreclosures take an average of 60 days to complete (from Notice of Default to sale).

Which means that if you don’t pay your taxes, in a matter of 60 days you could find yourself homeless.

We Fight Hard For Our Real Estate Clients

If you need help with your real estate matters, contact us.  We are experienced real estate attorneys in Georgia. Our practice focuses only on real estate issue. We practice in one area of law, and we do it extremely well. To schedule your free phone consultation, call us at: 770-888-7707.

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