Update: Across the U.S., many counties have extended the deadline for homeowners to pay their property taxes due to the coronoavirus (COVID-19) national emergency. Various places are postponing tax sales, tax foreclosures, and redemption deadlines as well. In Maryland, a Court of Appeals order stays (postpones) foreclosures of the right of redemption after a tax sale during the pendency of the COVID-19 emergency.
If you don’t pay your Maryland property taxes, the tax collector can sell your home at a tax sale to pay off the delinquent amounts. But you won’t face a tax sale without fair warning, and you’ll get the chance to get your home back after the sale because, under Maryland law, you can reclaim (or "redeem") your property—even after someone else buys it at a tax sale.
If your Maryland taxes are delinquent, the collector is permitted to sell your home at a tax sale to pay off the overdue amounts. (Md. Code Ann., Tax-Prop. § 14-808).
Before the sale, the collector must let you know about a pending tax sale by mailing you a notice and publishing the sale information in a newspaper. (Md. Code Ann., Tax-Prop. § 14-812, § 14-813).
At the tax sale, which is a public auction, your property will be sold to the highest bidder who is willing to pay at least the total amount of all taxes due, together with interest, penalties, and expenses related to the sale. (Md. Code Ann., Tax-Prop. § 14-817). The winning bidder then gets a certificate of sale. (Md. Code Ann., Tax-Prop. § 14-820).
But the winning bidder can’t get ownership of your home just yet because Maryland law establishes a waiting period, called a "redemption period" (see below) during which you can pay off the debt. The certificate of sale acts as evidence of the winning bidder’s interest in the property during the redemption period.
Within 60 days after the tax sale, the collector must send you a notice by mail that includes information about the sale and about your right to redeem the home. (Md. Code Ann., Tax-Prop. § 14-817.1). If you don’t pay off the debt during the redemption period, however, the purchaser will foreclose your right to redeem and get title to your home.
Maryland homeowners generally get at least six months after the sale to redeem the home. (Md. Code Ann., Tax-Prop. § 14-833). These six months are called a "redemption period." (In Baltimore City, the redemption period is nine months from the date of sale for owner-occupied residential properties. Md. Code Ann. Tax-Property § 14-833.) During this time, you can pay off the tax debt and prevent the purchaser from getting the title to your property.
In some cases, the winning bidder can start the foreclosure process sooner. For instance, a person or entity that purchases a certain type of abandoned property or vacant property, or when the governing body of a county or municipal corporation becomes the holder of a certificate of sale, the foreclosure can start at any time after the sale date. (Md. Code Ann., Tax-Prop. § 14-833).
If the home needs substantial repairs, or will need substantial repairs within six months, to comply with the local building code, the purchaser might, depending on the circumstances, be able to start the foreclosure at any time after 60 days from the sale date. (Md. Code Ann., Tax-Prop. § 14-833).
The redemption amount is generally:
The amount will vary depending on how long you wait to redeem. The longer you hold off on redeeming, the more you’ll have to pay.
After six months expires, the winning bidder must foreclose your right of redemption in court to get title to your home. (Md. Code Ann., Tax-Prop. § 14-833).
In most cases, the winning bidder must give you two notices before it starts the foreclosure. The winning bidder can’t begin the foreclosure until at least two months after sending you the first notice and at least 30 days after sending the second notice. (Md. Code Ann., Tax-Prop. § 14-833).
You can redeem up until at any time until your right of redemption has been finally foreclosed. (Md. Code Ann., Tax-Prop. § 14-827, § 14-833).
If the winning bidder doesn’t start the foreclosure within two years after the date of the certificate of sale, the certificate becomes void, and the bidder loses all rights to your property. (Md. Code Ann., Tax-Prop. § 14-833). At this point, your property will probably be sold at another tax sale if you don’t get caught up on the overdue amounts.
To learn more about tax sale and redemption laws in Maryland, consider talking to a foreclosure lawyer, a real estate lawyer, or a tax lawyer who has experience in property tax matters.