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

If you’re delinquent on your Georgia property taxes, you could lose your home to a tax sale.

Failing to pay your real property taxes in Georgia generally leads to a tax sale. But the winning bidder from the sale doesn't get ownership of your home right away; you'll get some time to get caught up on the overdue amounts before this happens.

If you don't pay off your Georgia property taxes after the sale during what's called the "redemption period," however, you'll lose your home to a new owner.

What is a Property Tax Lien?

People who own real property have to pay property taxes. The government uses that tax money to pay for schools, public services, libraries, roads, parks, and the like. The tax amount is generally based on the assessed property value.

But when a homeowner doesn't pay the property taxes, the overdue amount becomes a lien on the home.

What Happens if You Don't Pay Property Taxes

Georgia, along with all other states, has a process that allows the taxing authority to sell a property to collect delinquent taxes. (Learn about your options to avoid a tax sale if you can't keep up with the property taxes.)

How Georgia Tax Sales Work

If the homeowner pays the taxes, the lien dissolves. But if you don't pay the amount due, the sheriff may eventually:

  • hold a tax sale without going to court (called a "nonjudicial tax sale"), or
  • foreclose the lien in court (called a "judicial tax sale") and then sell the home.

This article focuses on nonjudicial tax sales because it's the most common type of tax sale process in Georgia. (Generally, the judicial tax sale process is used for abandoned and blighted properties.)

Notice Before the Nonjudicial Tax Sale Takes Place

If you don't pay the taxes, you'll get a letter from the tax collector stating that you're behind and giving you 30 days to get caught up. (Ga. Code Ann. § 48-3-3). If you don't pay, you'll get a notice by personal delivery, registered mail, or overnight delivery, 20 days before the sheriff publishes notice of the sale in a newspaper. (Ga. Code Ann. § 48-3-9, § 48-3-10). Then, you'll get one more notice by registered or certified mail or overnight delivery ten days before the sale. (Ga. Code Ann. § 48-4-1).

How a Nonjudicial Tax Sale Works in Georgia

At the sale, the sheriff sells the home to the highest bidder. If no one bids an amount sufficient to cover the past-due amounts, including costs, the county may bid and purchase the home. (Ga. Code Ann. § 48-4-20).

After the sale, the high bidder (the purchaser) gets a deed to the home, subject to your right of redemption (see below). (Ga. Code Ann. § 48-4-6, § 48-4-40). After the redemption period expires, the purchaser may foreclose the right of redemption, which bars anyone from redeeming. The purchaser then gets ownership of the home.

The purchaser will automatically get title to the property four years after the date the tax deed was recorded if the property isn't redeemed—even if the purchaser doesn't formally foreclose the right of redemption. (Ga. Code Ann. § 48-4-48).

How Long You Get to Redeem the Property After a Georgia Tax Sale

In Georgia, homeowners who lose their property to a tax sale get a 12-month redemption period afterward. During the redemption period, and up until the purchaser terminates the right of redemption by giving notice of the foreclosure, you may pay the purchase price, plus some additional amounts to redeem the home. (Ga. Code Ann. § 48-4-40).

Redeeming the property will prevent the purchaser from getting title to your home. (Learn more about how to redeem your home after the tax sale in Getting Your Home Back After a Property Tax Sale in Georgia.)

Talk to a Foreclosure, Tax, or Real Estate Lawyer

If you have questions about property tax sale laws in Georgia or you need help redeeming your property, consider talking to a foreclosure lawyer, tax lawyer, or a real estate lawyer.

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