...Warren County Treasurer Nancy Siggins has seen heartbreaking examples of what can go wrong for property owners who wait until the last minute to try to save their homes from tax sale.
In one case, a property owner who worked the night shift thought he
could catch a little extra sleep and still be at the courthouse in time to save his
house from the auctioneer's gavel.
said the message for those who could lose their property because of delinquent taxes is, "Don't let it go upstairs (to the main courtroom).
"Anything can happen once the sale starts," said Siggins
."We try to work with people until then, but there's nothing we can do after the sale starts."
How do an average of 800 properties per year end up being advertised as having delinquent taxes?
Property owners first have the opportunity to pay their taxes to the tax collector after receiving their bills in August, said Siggins
In the case of 2006 taxes, said Siggins
, nothing further will happen until June 2008 when another certified notice is sent to the property owner.
After the second notice, the property owner has until July 10 to pay the taxes.That is when the tax sale list is finalized.Siggins
said that there are many hardship cases and the Tax Claim Bureau
is willing to work with property owners, even to the point of accepting monthly installments of $50 to $100 up until the point of the tax sale in September.
While no direct aid is available to help property owners pay their taxes, Siggins
said that there is financial assistance available for expenses such as food, medical costs and heating and those programs can be utilized to "free up" money to apply to back taxes.
If taxes are not paid by July 10, delinquent taxes, including the name of the property owner, the amount owed and parcel numbers, are advertised in the Times Observer
This year, Siggins
expects the list of delinquent tax properties will be published on or about July 16.
The listing this year will include properties with delinquent taxes from 2005, 2006 and 2007.Tax bills for 2007 will be mailed out in August, Siggins
said, so by the time of the tax sale in September, they will be considered due.
"A lot of people think you have three years," said Siggins
, "but it's actually only two."
Between the time of publication of the legal advertisement and the tax sale in September, Siggins
said, taxes may be paid at any point.
The day of the tax sale is "a crazy day," said Siggins
said the tactic of letting back taxes accumulate until the last minute and then saving the property from the auction block by paying off one year became popular when interest rates on investments were much higher than today's yields.
But by the time a property goes to auction today, she
said, the interest rate penalty will approach 21 percent.
"I don't know of any investment that would earn that much today," said Siggins
A tax sale differs from a sheriff's sale, said Siggins
, because sheriff's sales are conducted to satisfy lien holders and mortgage companies as opposed to taxes.
"The Tax Claim Bureau sales are just for delinquent taxes," she
Once the sale begins, Siggins
said some property owners' only hope is that no one bids on their property.
And that does happen.
"But if no one bids, the next year they are listed for judicial sale," said Siggins
At a judicial sale, properties are sold "free and clear" of all liens and judgments, making them much more attractive to prospective bidders.