If you’re a Florida homeowner and you don’t pay your property taxes, the delinquent amount becomes a lien on your residence. Once a tax lien is on your home, the tax collector may sell that lien and, if you don’t get current, later sell the property to a new owner at a tax deed sale.
Fortunately, you will have an opportunity to "redeem" your home by paying off the tax debt before the new owner gets the property. If you don't redeem in time, though, you'll lose ownership of the place.
In Florida, the purchaser at a tax lien sale gets a tax certificate and the right to collect the delinquent tax debt from you, plus interest. The winning bidder at the tax lien sale will be the person who charges the lowest interest rate on the debt.
Eventually, the tax collector can sell the home at a public tax deed sale if you don’t get caught up on the past-due amounts. (To get details on the tax lien sale process and tax deed sale process in Florida, see What Happens If I Don't Pay Property Taxes in Florida.)
Under Florida law, you get some time to pay off the tax debt after the lien sale. This process is called "redeeming" the property and will stop a tax deed sale from happening.
You get at least two years after the tax lien sale to redeem the property before it's sold at a tax deed sale. That’s because the lien purchaser must wait two years from April 1 of the year that the tax certificate is issued before submitting an application for a tax deed to the tax collector. (Fla. Stat. § 197.502). The application triggers a tax deed sale.
If seven years pass, but the purchaser doesn't submit an application for a tax deed, and no other administrative or legal proceeding, including a bankruptcy, is on record, the tax certificate expires and becomes null and void. (Fla. Stat. § 197.482).
So long as the purchaser applies for a tax deed before the certificate expires, the clerk of the circuit court will hold a tax deed sale. The home is sold at a public auction to the highest bidder. (Fla. Stat. § 197.502).
You can redeem after a tax sale, but you’ll have to act fast. You can redeem up until:
If you plan on redeeming the property, it’s a good idea to pay off the tax debt well before the sale happens.
To redeem the property, you’ll have to pay the face amount of the tax certificate along with interest and costs. (Fla. Stat. § 197.472).
You might also have to pay a mandatory minimum charge of 5% if the lien purchaser bid less than 5% interest on the debt when he or she bought the lien. But if the purchaser bid an interest rate of 0% when buying the lien, then you don’t have to pay this charge. (Fla. Stat. § 197.472).
Even though you’ll get some time to redeem your Florida home before losing it to a tax deed 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’re facing a property tax sale in Florida—or you need help redeeming your property—consider talking to a foreclosure lawyer or a real estate lawyer.