Getting Your Home Back After a Property Tax Sale in California

If you lose your home to a California tax sale, very rarely can you get it back.

If you lose your home to a property tax sale in California, you generally can’t get it back, except in limited circumstances. You do, however, usually get five years after you fall behind in taxes to pay off the delinquent amounts before the sale can take place. That's because California law provides you with the right to "redeem" the home—that is, get current on the overdue amounts, plus interest and costs—which will prevent the loss of your property.

How California Tax Sales Work

If you don’t pay your property taxes in California, the tax collector can sell your home at a tax sale, which is typically a public auction. (To get details on the tax sale process in California, see What Happens If I Don't Pay Property Taxes in California.)

Right to Redeem the Home Before the Tax Sale

In California, the tax collector usually can’t sell your home until five years after you fall behind in your tax payments. (Cal. Rev. & Tax. Code § 3691). You can pay off the delinquent amounts during this time and stop a tax sale from happening.

Your right to redeem expires at the close of business on the last business day prior to the sale date. (Cal. Rev. & Tax. Code § 3706).

How Much It Will Cost to Redeem the Home

To redeem the home, you’ll have to pay:

  • the total amount of all past-due taxes
  • delinquent penalties and costs
  • redemption penalties, and
  • certain fees, including a redemption fee. (Cal. Rev. & Tax. Code §§ 4102, 4112).

When the Right to Redeem Revives

If your home doesn’t sell at the auction, or if the purchaser who bought it at the sale doesn’t follow through with the deal, your right to redeem revives. (Cal. Rev. & Tax. Code § 3693.1, 3707).

Challenging the Validity of the Sale to Get Your Home Back

After the tax sale occurs, you might be able to get your home back by convincing the board of supervisors (the body that supervises the operation of the county government) to rescind (invalidate) the sale. You must show that:

  • the sale was invalid for some reason, like you paid the redemption amount, but the tax collector still sold the home to a new owner, or
  • there were irregularities in the sale (meaning, the procedures weren’t proper).

The procedures for asking for a rescission are complicated, and you'll have to ask for a rescission by a certain deadline, usually a year after the tax deed is executed. (Cal. Rev. & Tax. Code § 3725.) Getting your home back through this method is usually difficult and rarely happens. You’ll most likely need an attorney’s help if you want to try to get the sale rescinded.

Avoiding a Tax Lien

Even though you’ll get some time to redeem your California home before losing it to a tax sale, sale, in most cases, it's better to take action earlier to try to make your taxes more affordable. For instance, before you fall behind in your taxes, you could:

  • look into whether you meet the criteria for a property tax abatement, or
  • challenge the taxable value of your home, if you think it's incorrect.

Getting Help

If you need help redeeming your property or you want to learn more about potentially rescinding the sale, consider talking to a foreclosure lawyer or a real estate lawyer who's knowledgeable about California tax sales.

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