If you lose your home to a property tax sale in California, you generally can’t get it back, except in certain limited circumstances where the county decides to rescind the sale. You do, however, get five years after you fall behind in taxes to pay off the delinquent amounts before the sale can take place.
Read on to learn more about paying the delinquent amounts to stop a tax sale, how much you’ll have to pay to stop the sale, and how you might be able to get your home back by getting the sale rescinded after it occurs.
If you don’t pay your property taxes in California, the tax collector can sell your home, typically at 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 cannot 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 and save your home from a tax sale at any time during this five-year period, which is called a redemption period.
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).
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). This means you still have the right to redeem since your home wasn’t actually sold at the scheduled sale.
To redeem the home you’ll have to pay:
After the sale takes place, 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. To do this, you must show that:
Getting your home back through this method is difficult and rarely happens.
To convince the county to rescind the sale, you must file a petition with the board of supervisors within one year after the tax collector deeds the home to a new owner citing your reasons why you believe the sale should be rescinded (Cal. Rev. & Tax. Code § 3725).
If the board agrees that your property should not have been sold, it can rescind the sale so long as:
What happens if the purchaser won't agree to rescind the sale. In cases where the purchaser won’t agree to the rescission, the board can still rescind the sale if both of the following conditions are met:
If the board of supervisors decides not to rescind the sale, you can file a lawsuit in court contesting that decision, but you must file the suit within one year of the board’s decision (Cal. Rev. & Tax. Code § § 3725, 3731).
Since you don’t get the right to redeem the home after the sale and it is difficult to get your home back by convincing the county to rescind the sale, it is better to take action before you fall behind to make your taxes more affordable. For example, you could:
To find the statutes governing sales of tax-delinquent homes in California, go to Cal. Rev. & Tax. Code § § 3351 through 3972 and § § 4101 through 4379 of the California Revenue and Taxation Code.