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.
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.)
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).
To redeem the home, you’ll have to pay:
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).
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 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 You’ll most likely need an attorney’s help if you want to try to get the sale rescinded.
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:
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.