If you're a homeowner in Arkansas, you'll eventually forfeit your property to the state if you don't pay your property taxes. You'll have a chance to get current on the delinquent amounts (called "redeeming" the property") before the state can sell your home to a new owner, as well as a short period after that to redeem.
Below you can learn the details about what type of notice you'll get before you lose your home to the state, how long you get to pay off the delinquent taxes before the state sells it to a new owner, and how much time you'll have to redeem the property after the sale to a new owner.
People who own real property have to pay property taxes. The government uses the money that property taxes generate to pay for schools, public services, libraries, roads, and parks. Typically, the amount of property taxes that a homeowner must pay is based on the assessed value of the property.
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. (If you are struggling to pay your property taxes, learn about your options to avoid a tax sale.)
In Arkansas, if you don't pay your property taxes, your home will be forfeited to the state one year following the date the taxes were due, October 15. The county collector then holds on to your tax-delinquent home for one year after the date of the delinquency. If you don't get caught up on the past-due amounts by what's called the certification date, which is no later than July 1 of the following year, the county collector transfers the home by certification to the Commissioner of State Lands. The Commissioner is the official in Arkansas who's responsible for selling homes that have been forfeited to the state for non-payment of real property taxes. (Ark. Code § 26-37-101).
When the Commissioner receives the certification, the state automatically gets title to the home. The Commissioner can then sell your home to a new owner. (Ark. Code § 26-37-101).
Before the county collector transfers the home to the state by certification, the collector must publish a notice in a newspaper not less than 30 days, but not more than 40 days, before the certification. (Ark. Code § 26-37-102).
At any time before the certification date, you can pay off the tax debt and stop the process. (Ark. Code § 26-37-101).
After getting title to your home, the Commissioner, on behalf of the state, must notify you by certified mail (or by regular mail in some cases) of your right to pay all taxes, penalties, interest, and costs, including the cost of the notice, to redeem the property and stop the tax sale. (Ark. Code § 26-37-301).
The notice must also indicate the sale date, which shall not be earlier than one year after the property is certified to the Commissioner. (Ark. Code § 26-37-301).
The tax sale consists of a public auction where the home is sold to the highest bidder. (Ark. Code § 26-37-202). The winning bid must be at least as much as the amount of delinquent taxes, penalties, interest, and the costs of the sale. If no one bids this amount, the Commissioner may negotiate a private sale. (Ark. Code § 26-37-202).
Again, you can redeem your home before certification and at any time up until the sale. Also, under Arkansas law, you can redeem within ten days—excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays—after the sale. After the Commissioner sells the home at either an auction or a negotiated sale, it must notify you of your right to redeem and get the property back. (Ark. Code § 26-37-202).
To redeem the property, you must pay all taxes, penalties, interest, and costs due. If you don't redeem, the Commissioner transfers the title to your home to the person or entity that bought it at the sale. (Ark. Code § 26-37-202, § 26-37-203).
In some limited circumstances, you might be able to get your home back by challenging the validity of the sale in a lawsuit. You must file the suit within 90 days after the date the home is conveyed to the new owner. (Ark. Code § 26-37-203).
If you're facing a tax forfeiture and sale in Arkansas and you need help redeeming the property, consider talking to a foreclosure lawyer, a real estate lawyer, or a tax lawyer to learn about your different options and rights. If you want to contest the conveyance after a sale, a lawyer can answer your questions on that topic, too.