What Happens If I Don't Pay Property Taxes in Kansas?

What happens if you don’t pay your Kansas property taxes? You might eventually lose your home.

By , Attorney

People who own real property must pay property taxes. The government uses the money these taxes generate 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 Kansas, you could lose your home to the county. You do, however, get some time both before and after this transfer happens to pay off the debt. But if you don't pay the delinquent amounts, the county may then foreclose and sell the property to a new owner at a public auction.

What Happens If I Did Not Pay My Taxes By The Due Date?

If you don't pay your Kansas property taxes, you could eventually lose your home, usually after a few years, to the county at a tax sale. The county is the only party allowed to buy the property at the sale.

The county can then eventually foreclose on the home and sell it to a new owner to recover the amount owed in unpaid taxes.

How Kansas Property Tax Sales Work

At a Kansas property tax sale, your home can be "bid off" (sold) to the county at a private sale for the amount of the delinquent taxes and legal charges due. (Kansas Stat. Ann. §§ 79-2301, 79-2302.)

No one other than the county is allowed to purchase the property at the private sale. (Kansas Stat. Ann. § 79-2306.)

Notice of a Kansas Tax Sale

Between July 1 and July 10 of each year, the county treasurer prepares a list of all real estate subject to sale. (Kansas Stat. Ann. § 79-2302.)

A notice containing the list must be submitted to the newspaper on or before August 1 of each year. The county treasurer must publish the notice once a week for three weeks before the sale. The treasurer must also post a copy of the notice in a conspicuous place in their office. (Kansas Stat. Ann. § 79-2303.)

When Kansas Tax Sales Happen

The sale will typically be on or after the first Tuesday of September following the publication of the notice. (Kansas Stat. Ann. § 79-2302.)

Right to Redeem the Home Following a Tax Sale to the County in Kansas

In Kansas, you can reclaim your home after the county acquires it at a tax sale by paying off the past-due amounts, known as "redeeming" the property.

You get one to three years after the sale to redeem your home, depending on the circumstances.

General Redemption Period

Generally, the redemption period after the county gets the home at a tax sale is two years. (Kansas Stat. Ann. § 79-2401a.)

Redemption Period for Homestead Properties

If the property is your homestead, the redemption period is three years after the sale. (Kansas Stat. Ann. § 79-2401a.)

You can partially redeem a homestead property and that partial redemption will extend the time before a tax foreclosure can start by the number of years you paid in the partial redemption. (Kansas Stat. Ann. § 79-2401a.)

Redemption Period for Abandoned Properties

If your property has been unoccupied (abandoned) and not maintained for over a year, the redemption period is one year after the sale. (Kansas Stat. Ann. § 79-2401a.)

How Much You'll Have to Pay to Redeem

To redeem the home, you'll have to pay to the county treasurer:

  • the amount the home sold for at the tax sale
  • interest
  • all delinquent taxes and special assessments, plus interest, that have accrued after the sale date, and
  • the costs and expenses of the sale and redemption. (Kansas Stat. Ann. § 79-2401a.)

What Happens If You Don't Redeem During the Redemption Period

If you don't redeem Your Kansas home during the applicable redemption period, the county will dispose of the property by filing a foreclosure lawsuit in court. The court will enter a judgment ordering a sale of the home. (Kansas Stat. Ann. § 79-2801.)

Notice of the foreclosure sale. After the court enters a judgment, the sheriff will publish notice of the sale in a newspaper once a week for three weeks before the sale. (Kansas Stat. Ann. § 79-2804.)

You can redeem until the day before the public sale. If you file an application with the court before the day of the sale, you can still redeem the home even at this late date. (Kansas Stat. Ann. § 79-2803.)

How the redemption process works at this point. Along with the application, you'll have to pay:

  • a filing fee of the amount the court ordered or
  • 5% of the amount due, including taxes, charges, interest, and penalties, if the court didn't issue an order. (Kansas Stat. Ann. § 79-2803.)

Once you pay the fee, the court clerk will inform the treasurer that you want to redeem and the treasurer will calculate the total amount you must pay. (Kansas Stat. Ann. § 79-2803.)

What happens if you don't redeem. If you don't redeem the home, after the court enters a foreclosure judgment, the sheriff will sell the property to the highest bidder at a public auction. Once the court confirms the sale, the purchaser will receive a deed (title) to your home. (Kansas Stat. Ann. § 79-2804.)

What Happens to My Mortgage in a Tax Sale?

If you have a mortgage on your home, the loan servicer might collect money from you as part of the monthly payment to pay the property taxes. The servicer then pays the taxes on your behalf through an escrow account.

But if the property taxes aren't collected and paid through this kind of account, you must pay them directly.

The Servicer Might Pay Any Delinquent Taxes If You Don't

If your loan isn't escrowed and you don't pay the property taxes, the loan servicer might pay any delinquent taxes and then bill you for them. Here's why: Property tax liens almost always have priority over other liens, including mortgage liens and deed of trust liens. (For purposes of this discussion, the terms "mortgage" and "deed of trust" are used interchangeably.)

Because a property tax lien has priority, a completed tax sale and foreclosure process wipes out any mortgages. So, the loan servicer will usually advance money to pay delinquent property taxes to prevent this sale from happening. The servicer will then demand reimbursement from you, the borrower.

If You Don't Reimburse the Servicer, You Might Lose Your Home to a Regular Foreclosure

The terms of most mortgage contracts require the borrower to stay current on the property taxes. If you don't reimburse the servicer for the tax amount that it paid, you'll be in default under the mortgage's terms.

The servicer can then foreclose on the home in the same manner as if you had fallen behind in monthly payments.

Your Servicer Might Set Up an Escrow Account

After demanding repayment of the amount it paid for the taxes, penalties, and interest (assuming you repay this debt), your servicer will probably set up an escrow account for the loan.

Each month, you'll have to pay approximately one-twelfth of the estimated annual cost of property taxes—and perhaps other expenses, like insurance—along with your regular monthly payment of principal and interest. This money goes into the escrow account.

The loan servicer then pays the cost of the taxes and other escrow items on your behalf through the escrow account.

What Gives the Servicer the Right to Set Up an Escrow Account?

Many mortgages have a clause that allows the lender to establish an escrow account basically at any time it chooses. The servicer establishes and manages the account on the lender's behalf.

To find out if and when the lender can set up an escrow account for your loan, read your mortgage contract and any other relevant documentation you've signed, like an escrow waiver.

Pros and Cons of Having an Escrow Account

The downside to having an escrow account is that you'll have to make a bigger monthly payment to the servicer. On the positive side, having an escrow account saves you from having to come up with a large amount of money when tax bills, and possibly other bills, are due.

Getting Help

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 lawyer, tax lawyer, or real estate lawyer if you're facing a tax sale and foreclosure process in Kansas and have questions about the process or need help redeeming your property,

To learn more about property taxes and other aspects of homeownership in general, get Nolo's Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home by Ilona Bray, J.D., Attorney Ann O'Connell, and Marcia Stewart.

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