Massachusetts homeowners who fail to pay their property taxes can lose their home after a tax sale or a "taking" by the city or town. Fortunately, you'll get some time—called a "redemption period"—after the sale or taking to get current on the overdue amounts before losing ownership of your property.
But if you don't get caught up on the delinquent amounts during the redemption period, the purchaser, city, or town can eventually start a foreclosure to gain title to the property.
When a Massachusetts homeowner doesn't keep up with the property taxes, the tax collector may sell the home to satisfy the tax debt. Alternatively, the city or town may "take" the property rather than holding a sale.
The purchaser from the tax sale, or the city or town in the case of a taking, must then foreclose the homeowner's right to redeem to get free and clear ownership of property. (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 60, § 64). (For details on the tax sale and tax taking process in Massachusetts, see What Happens If I Don't Pay Property Taxes in Massachusetts.)
In Massachusetts, most people get a six-month redemption period after the sale or the taking to pay off the tax debt and keep the home. (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 60, § 65).
After the redemption period expires, the purchaser (or city or town) can file a petition with the land court to foreclose the right to redeem. Once the foreclosure is complete, the purchaser gets ownership of the property.
In some cases, the foreclosure process can begin sooner. A city or town may begin foreclosure proceedings immediately if:
Also, a petition for the foreclosure of all rights of redemption may be filed at any time following the consent in writing of the record owner. (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 60, § 65).
Under the Massachusetts statutes, you can redeem your home up until:
If you miss the deadline to file an answer to the petition, the court might let you redeem up until it enters a judgment foreclosing your right of redemption. If you want to redeem your home after the foreclosure starts, your best bet is to get the assistance of an attorney.
To redeem the property, you generally must pay the original amount due, plus interest at 16%, and all charges. (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 60, § 62). But if the foreclosure has already started and the court permits you to redeem, you'll also have to pay court costs and attorneys' fees. (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 60, § 68).
You can file a petition asking the court to vacate its judgment within one year (or 90 days if the property was abandoned or the redemption amount exceeded the assessed value of the parcel). (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 60, § 69A). But judgments are rarely vacated, and few arguments exist for vacating a judgment. If you want information about vacating a judgment, talk to an attorney.
To learn more about property tax and redemption laws in Massachusetts, consider talking to a foreclosure lawyer, a real estate lawyer, or a tax lawyer who has experience in property tax matters.