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

If you default on property taxes in Colorado, you could eventually lose your home.

If you don’t pay the real property taxes on your Colorado home, the county treasurer can hold a tax lien sale and you could eventually lose ownership of your property. Read on to find out how the tax lien sale process in Colorado works, what type of notice you’ll receive before a Colorado tax lien sale, how long you get to pay off the debt before you lose title to your home, and more.

Property Tax Lien Sales in Colorado

If you fall behind in paying your real property taxes in Colorado, the delinquent amount becomes a lien on your home. Once there is a tax lien on your home, the county treasurer (or its agent) may hold a tax lien sale. (If you are struggling to pay your property taxes, learn about your  options to avoid a tax sale.)

How Tax Lien Sales Work

In Colorado, the county treasurer sells tax liens at a public auction (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 39-11-108). The bidding starts at the amount of the delinquent taxes, interest, and fees then due (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 39-11-117).

If someone buys the tax lien.  The winning bidder at the auction is issued a certificate of purchase and gets the right to collect the tax debt from you, plus interest. If you don’t pay off the amount of the lien plus various other amounts in a certain period of time, the winning bidder can obtain title your home (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 39-11-115).

If no one bids on the tax lien.  If no one bids for the lien at the sale, the county treasurer will “strike off” the lien to the county (or city, town, or city and county) for the amount of past-due taxes, delinquent interest, and fees (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 39-11-108). This means the county gets the certificate of purchase and can eventually obtain title to your home if you don’t pay off the debt.

Notice of the Tax Lien Sale

In Colorado, you’ll receive one notice before the tax lien sale takes place. The county treasurer also gives notice of the tax lien sale to the public.

Notice you’ll receive prior to the tax lien sale.  No later than September 1, the treasurer will mail you a  notice that you are behind on taxes. The notice will inform you that the treasurer will sell the tax lien for your home at a public auction on a certain date if you don’t pay the delinquency by the date specified in the notice, which is no less than 15 days from the date the notice was mailed (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 39-11-101).

Notice of the sale must also be published and posted.  The treasurer must also:

  • publish notice of the tax lien sale (including the date, time and place of sale) in a newspaper, and
  • post the notice in a conspicuous place in the treasurer’s office (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 39-11-102).

Redemption Period After the Tax Lien Sale

After the sale date, you get a three-year redemption period during which you can pay off the tax debt, plus interest and fees, and keep your home (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 39-11-120). This is called “redeeming” the home.

In addition, you can redeem up until the person or entity that bought the lien at the sale (or the county) gets title to your home (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 39-12-103). (Learn more in  Getting Your Home Back After a Property Tax Sale in Colorado.)

How the Lien Purchaser Gets Title to Your Home if You Don’t Redeem

Once three years passes, the person or entity that bought the lien at the sale can obtain title to your home by requesting a deed from the treasurer (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 39-11-120).

Notice before you lose title to the home.  After the person or entity that bought the lien at the tax sale requests a deed from the treasurer, the treasurer must serve you a notice by personal service or by either registered or certified mail. The notice will include, among other things, when the time for redemption expires or when the tax deed will be issued (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 39-11-128).

How the County Gets Title to Your Home if You Don’t Redeem

If your home was struck off to the county and the county has held the certificate of sale for three or more years, the board of county commissioners may apply for and receive title in the same manner as if a private individual (or entity) purchased the lien (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 39-11-142).

How to Find Colorado’s Tax Lien Laws

To find the tax lien statutes for Colorado, go to the Colorado Revised Statutes § § 39-11-100.3 through 39-11-152 and § § 39-12-101 through 39-12-113.

You can look up the Colorado statutes at  www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/Colorado. (If you need help finding the statutes, see Nolo’s  Legal Research FAQs & Basic Info  area.)

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