What Happens If I Don't Pay Property Taxes in Arkansas

If you fail to pay your property taxes in Arkansas you could lose your home in a tax sale.

In Arkansas, the state will eventually get title to your home if you don’t pay your property taxes. You'll have a chance to get current on the delinquent amounts, but if you don't pay up in time the state can sell your home. Below you can learn the details about what type of notice you’ll get before you lose your home to the state, whether you can reclaim (or “redeem”) your home before the state sells it, and whether you can get your home back after the sale to a new owner.

Arkansas Property Tax Sales

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. (If you are struggling to pay your property taxes, learn about your  options to avoid a tax sale.)

The forfeiture process works like this: The county collector holds on to your tax-delinquent home for one year after the date you fall behind in paying your taxes. 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). The Commissioner is the official in Arkansas who is responsible for selling homes that have been forfeited to the state for non-payment of real property taxes.

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).

Notice Prior to Certification

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 prior to the certification date, you can pay off the tax debt and stop the process (Ark. Code § 26-37-101). This is known as “redeeming” the home.

Notice Prior to the  Sale

After it gets 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, which will stop the tax sale (Ark. Code § 26-37-301). This is also known as redeeming the home.

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

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).

Your Right to Get the Home Back After the Tax Sale in Arkansas

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 home back. (Learn more about  redeeming your home after a tax sale in Arkansas.)

Generally, you get ten days after the sale date to redeem.  In most cases, you can get the home back if you pay all taxes, penalties, interest, and costs due within ten days (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays) after the sale (Ark. Code § 26-37-202).

When you get 30 days to redeem after the sale. Under some circumstances, if you didn’t receive actual notice of the sale 60 days beforehand, you get 30 days after the sale to redeem, if the home was your residence (Ark. Code § 26-37-315). (You should speak to an experienced Arkansas attorney to learn about your rights if you lose your home to a tax sale and you didn't get notice beforehand.)

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).

You may be able to get your home back by contesting the conveyance.  You may also be able to get your home back by challenging the validity of the sale in a lawsuit. For example, if you had actually paid the taxes, this would give you grounds to challenge the conveyance. You must file the suit within 90 days after the date the home is conveyed to the new owner (Ark. Code § 26-37-203).

Where to Find Arkansas’ Tax Sale Laws

The citations to Arkansas’ tax sale statutes are: Arkansas Code § § 26-37-101 through 26-37-316.

You can find the Arkansas Code on the Arkansas State Legislature’s website at  www.arkleg.state.ar.us/assembly/2013/2014S2/Pages/Home.aspx. (If you need help finding the statutes, see Nolo’s  Legal Research FAQs & Basic Info  area.)

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