If you’re late in paying the property taxes for your Florida home, the delinquent amount becomes a lien on your residence. Once there is a tax lien 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 sale. However, you have an opportunity to "redeem" your home by paying off the tax debt before the new owner takes title to the property. If you don't redeem the home in time, you'll lose it permanently.
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 will prevent a tax deed sale and is called “redeeming” the property. You get at least two years after the tax lien sale to redeem the property before it is sold at a tax deed sale.
How the lien purchaser initiates a tax deed sale. The purchaser must wait two years from April 1 of the year that the tax certificate is issued before he or she submits an application for a tax deed to the tax collector (Fla. Stat. § 197.502). This triggers a tax deed sale.
When the tax certificate expires. If seven years passes, but the purchaser does not submit an application for a tax deed, then the tax certificate expires and it becomes null and void (Fla. Stat. § 197.482).
When your right to redeem ends. If 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 up until:
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 may also have to pay a mandatory charge of 5%, if the lien purchaser bid less than 5% interest on the debt when he or she bought the lien. However, if the purchaser bid an interest rate of 0% when he or she bought the lien, then you don’t have to pay this charge (Fla. Stat. § 197.472).
Even though Florida gives you at least two years to redeem your home before it is sold at a tax deed sale, in most cases, it is better to take action before the tax collector sells the lien to try to make your taxes more affordable. For example, you could:
To find the statutes that discuss tax collections, sales, and liens in Florida, go to Title XIV, Chapter 197 of the Florida Statutes.