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

If you don't pay your Illinois real property taxes, the county collector can sue to get a judgment and order to sell your home.

In Illinois, if you fall behind in paying your real property taxes, the county collector can start a lawsuit in court to get a judgment and order of sale. At the sale, the purchaser basically buys the unpaid tax lien that exists on the home.

If you then don’t pay off the tax debt, the purchaser can eventually get legal title to your home. You will be notified before this happens and you’ll also be allowed a set period of time after the sale in which to pay off the debt, so that you can then keep your home.

How Tax Sales in Illinois Work

When you don’t pay your property taxes in Illinois, the county collector can apply to the circuit court for a judgment against the property for the taxes and costs, and for an order of sale. However, the purchaser at the sale does not buy the title to the home. Instead, he or she gets a certificate of purchase, which represents a lien on the property. (A lien is a legal claim against the property.)

If you don’t “redeem” the home after the sale within the allotted time period (described below), the purchaser can petition the Illinois circuit court for a tax deed (title) to your home. (Learn about your  options if you can't pay the property taxes on your home.)

Notice of the Judgment and Sale

At least 15 days before applying to the court for a judgment and order of sale, the county collector must mail you a notice about the application (35 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. § 200/21-135).

The collector must also publish notice of the application in a newspaper  before applying for the judgment (35 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. § § 200/21-110, 200/21-115).

Your Right to Stop the Tax Sale By Getting Caught Up

At any time on or before the business day immediately before the sale, you can pay the taxes and costs due, which will stop the sale. (If you live in a county with 3,000,000 or more residents, you’ll have to pay the taxes, special assessments, interest, and costs due.) (35 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. § 200/21-165).

Sale

If you don't get caught up on what you owe, the court will issue a judgment and then the county collector will hold a sale to sell the delinquent tax debt (35 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. § § 200/21-190, 200/21-260). The person or entity that is the winning bidder at the sale will receive a certificate of purchase (35 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. § § 200/21-250, 200/21-260).

Your Right to Redeem the Home After the Sale

After an Illinois tax sale, you get a set period of time to pay off the taxes (as well as other amounts) and keep your home. This is called “redeeming” the property.

Under Illinois law, you typically get two and a half years to redeem the home, though the redemption period may be different depending on your particular circumstances (35 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. § 200/21-350). (Learn more in Getting Your Home Back After a Property Tax Sale in Illinois.)

What Happens If You Don’t Redeem the Home

If you don’t redeem your Illinois home during your allotted redemption period, the purchaser can get a deed (title) to the property.

To do this, the purchaser must file a petition with the circuit court (35 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. § 200/22-30). The circuit court will then enter a judgment ordering a tax deed in favor of the purchaser so long as he or she has complied with all legal requirements for obtaining a deed, such as:

  • preparing a notice of sale (which includes information about your right to redeem) within four months and 15 days after the sale for the county clerk to mail to you (35 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. § 200/22-5), and
  • serving you a notice containing the redemption period expiration date (and publishing the notice in a newspaper) at least three months, but not more than six months, before the expiration date (35 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. § § 200/22-10, 200/22-15).

Where to Find Illinois’ Property Tax Laws

If you want to look up Illinois’ property tax collection statutes, the citations are: 35 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. § § 200/21-5 through 200/21-445 and 200/22-5 through 200/22-95. To find the Illinois Compiled Statutes, go to the Illinois General Assembly’s website at  www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs.asp. (If you need help finding the statutes, see Nolo’s  Legal Research FAQs & Basic Info  area.)

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