Getting Your Home Back After a Property Tax Sale in Massachusetts

In most cases, Massachusetts law provides homeowners with some time following a tax sale or government taking to "redeem" the home.

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.

How Massachusetts Tax Sales and Foreclosures Work

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.)

Redemption Period After a Tax Sale or Taking 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.

No Redemption Period in Some Cases

In some cases, the foreclosure process can begin sooner. A city or town may begin foreclosure proceedings immediately if:

  • the home is abandoned (that is, you've permanently moved out, and the property meets certain requirements under Massachusetts law), or
  • the redemption amount exceeds the assessed value of the property. (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 60, § 65).

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).

When Your Right to Redeem Expires in Massachusetts

Under the Massachusetts statutes, you can redeem your home up until:

  • the purchaser, city, or town files the petition for foreclosure or
  • the date set by the land court if you make an offer to redeem in an answer to the petition. (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 60, §§ 62, 68).

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.

How Much You'll Have to Pay to Redeem Your Massachusetts Property

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).

Vacating a Foreclosure Judgment

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.

Getting Help From a Local Massachusetts Foreclosure Lawyer

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.

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