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

If you default on property tax payments in Michigan, you could lose your home.

In Michigan, you’ll eventually forfeit your property to the county treasurer if you don’t pay your property taxes. The county (or other governmental entity) can then foreclose and, if you don’t get current on the delinquent amounts, you’ll lose your home. (If you are struggling to pay your property taxes, learn about your  options to avoid a tax sale.)

Read on to find out the details about how the tax forfeiture and foreclosure process works in Michigan, the types of notices you’ll receive during the process, and how long you get to pay off the debt before you lose ownership of your home.

How Property Tax Forfeitures and Tax Foreclosures Work in Michigan

If you don’t pay your real property taxes in Michigan, your property will be forfeited to the county and foreclosed.

How a tax forfeiture works.  A delinquent-tax property will be forfeited to the county treasurer on March 1st in the second year of the delinquency. However, a forfeiture does not mean that you have lost your home. In this situation, “forfeiture” just means that your home is going to be foreclosed. In fact, you get about a year after the forfeiture to pay off the debt before you lose the home to the foreclosure (Mich. Comp. Laws § 211.78g). (This year-long time period is called a “redemption period,” which is explained in more detail below.)

How a tax foreclosure works.  The foreclosure starts during the redemption period. The foreclosing party files a petition with the court no later than June 15th in the second year of the delinquency (Mich. Comp. Laws § 211.78h). If the taxes go unpaid, the court will enter judgment in late March of the third year of the delinquency and the home is foreclosed (Mich. Comp. Laws § 211.78k). The county treasurer then takes ownership of the property and can sell it to a new owner.

Notice of the Foreclosure

Certain notices are required before you lose your home to the foreclosure. For example:

  • Notice when the treasurer demands the taxes.  No later than February 1st after the date the taxes became delinquent, the county treasurer must mail you a notice. Among other things, the notice will tell you when the property will be forfeited to the county treasurer if you don’t get current on the unpaid delinquent taxes, interest, penalties, and fees (Mich. Comp. Laws § 211.78f).
  • Notice during the foreclosure action.  The foreclosing party must mail you a notice not less than 30 days before the “show cause” hearing (Mich. Comp. Laws § 211.78i). (A “show cause” hearing is part of the foreclosure process where the foreclosing party must demonstrate why it should get title to your home).
  • Personal or posted notice.  If you occupy the property, the foreclosing party must try to personally serve you notice and orally tell you that, among other things, the property will be foreclosed unless the delinquent amounts are paid. If personal service is not made, notice about the foreclosure must be posted on the property (Mich. Comp. Laws § 211.78i).

 Redemption Period After Forfeiture

You get about one year to pay off the delinquent amounts following the forfeiture. This is called "redeeming" the property and will halt the foreclosure.

Your deadline to redeem.  March 31st in the third year of the delinquency is generally the last day you get to redeem the home (Mich. Comp. Laws § 211.78g). (If you contest the foreclosure by filing a written objection with the court, your deadline to redeem is within 21 days after the court enters the foreclosure judgment) (Mich. Comp. Laws § 211.78k).

How much it costs to redeem the home.  To redeem, you must pay the delinquent taxes plus some additional amounts. (Learn more in  Getting Your Home Back After a Property Tax Sale in Michigan.)

How to Find Michigan’s Tax Foreclosure Laws

The citations to Michigan’s tax forfeiture and foreclosure statutes are: Michigan Compiled Laws § 211.78, et seq. To find the Michigan Compiled Laws, go to the Michigan Legislature’s website at  www.legislature.mi.gov. Click on “Chapter Index” on the left side of the page and go to Chapter 211. (If you need help finding the statutes, see Nolo’s  Legal Research FAQs & Basic Info  area.)

 

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