People who own real property must pay property taxes. The government uses these taxes to pay for schools, public services, libraries, roads, parks, and the like. Typically, the tax amount is based on a property's assessed value.
When homeowners don't pay their property taxes, the overdue amount becomes a lien on the property. A lien effectively makes the property act as collateral for the debt. All states have laws that allow the local government to sell a home through a tax sale process to collect delinquent taxes.
So, if you don't pay your real property taxes in Hawaii, the tax collector can sell the property to a new owner at a tax sale. Fortunately, you'll have time to get current on the delinquent amounts before and after a sale.
Yes. If you don't pay your real property taxes in Hawaii, the overdue amount becomes a lien on your home.
Once the lien has existed for three years, the tax collector can sell your home at a public auction to collect the delinquent taxes. This process is considered a "foreclosure without suit." (Haw. Rev. Stat. § 231-63.)
You must pay the past-due taxes, along with interest, penalties, costs, expenses, and charges accrued or set to accrue by the date of payment, to stop the sale. (Haw. Rev. Stat. § 231-63, § 231-65.)
Before the sale, the tax collector must mail you a notice about the upcoming sale and give public notice.
In Hawaii, the tax collector must mail you a notice by registered mail, return receipt requested, at least 45 days before the sale date. (Haw. Rev. Stat. § 231-63.)
The tax collector must give public notice in a newspaper for at least four weeks before the sale and post notice in at least three conspicuous places within the taxation district. One of the three postings will be on the property if the land has improvements, like a dwelling. (Haw. Rev. Stat. § 231-63.)
The tax sale is a public auction where the collector sells the home to the highest bidder. The sale price will be at least enough to satisfy the lien plus interest, penalties, costs, and expenses. (Haw. Rev. Stat. § 231-63.)
After the sale, the high bidder (the purchaser) gets a deed (title) to the home, subject to your right of redemption. (Haw. Rev. Stat. § 231-67.)
If you lose your home to a Hawaii tax sale, you have the right to get it back, called the "right of redemption," within one year after the sale. But if the deed isn't recorded within 60 days after the sale, the redemption period is one year from the recording date. (Haw. Rev. Stat. § 231-67.)
To redeem the property, you must pay the purchase price, costs, expenses, and interest at the rate of 12% per year. But you don't have to pay interest during the extension if the redemption period is extended because the deed wasn't recorded within 60 days of the sale. (Haw. Rev. Stat. § 231-67.)
Because a property tax lien has priority, mortgages (and deeds of trust) get wiped out if you lose your home through a tax sale process. So, If your loan isn't escrowed and you fail to pay the property taxes like you're supposed to, the loan servicer will usually advance money to pay delinquent property taxes to prevent a tax sale from happening.
Most mortgages have a clause allowing the lender to add the amount it paid to bring the taxes current to your loan balance. You'll then have to make repayment arrangements with the servicer or potentially face a foreclosure.
If you're having trouble paying your property taxes, you might be able to reduce your tax bill or get extra time to pay.
Talk to a foreclosure, tax, or real estate lawyer if you're facing a tax sale in Hawaii and have questions about the process or need help redeeming your property.
To learn more about property taxes and other aspects of homeownership, get Nolo's Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home by Ilona Bray, J.D., Attorney Ann O'Connell, and Marcia Stewart.