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

If you get delinquent on your Missouri property taxes, the county collector can sell your home at a public auction.

If your Missouri property taxes are delinquent, the county collector can sell your home at a public auction to recover the overdue amounts. The good news is that you typically get a certain amount of time after the sale to reclaim (or “redeem”) your home. Read on to find out how most property tax sales in Missouri work, how you’ll learn about a tax sale before it happens, how long you get to reclaim your home afterwards, and more.

How Property Tax Sales Work in Missouri

Under Missouri law, when you don’t pay your property taxes, the county collector is permitted to sell your home at a tax sale to pay the overdue taxes, interest, and other charges (Mo. Ann. Stat. § § 140.150, 140.190). (Missouri law also provides an alternative procedure to enforce the payment of taxes for certain places in Missouri. This article focuses on tax sales under Chapter 140 of the Missouri Revised Statutes. To find out what specific procedures are used where you live, consult with an attorney.)

When the county will sell the home.  It is common practice for the county to wait until a homeowner's taxes are three years delinquent before selling the home, though state law permits an earlier sale (Mo. Ann. Stat. § 140.160). (If you are having difficulties paying your property taxes, learn about your  options to avoid a tax sale.)

The purchaser doesn't get title to your home right away.  The purchaser at the sale does not immediately get ownership of your home, because the law contains a mandatory waiting period, called a “redemption” period (see below). Instead, the purchaser will receive a certificate of purchase (Mo. Ann. Stat. § 140.290). This certificate acts as evidence of the purchaser’s interest in the property during the redemption period.

What happens if you don’t pay off the debt.  If you don’t pay off the debt during the redemption period, the purchaser can use the certificate of purchase to apply for and get title to your home.

Notice Before the Tax Sale Takes Place

The collector must attempt to inform you about a pending tax sale by publishing a list of delinquent lands (that is, properties with unpaid taxes) and mailing you a notice of sale.

Notice by publication.  The tax collector must publish notice in a newspaper once a week for three consecutive weeks before the sale (Mo. Ann. Stat. § 140.170).

Notice by mail.  Before the publication, the collector must send you notice by:

  • first class mail and
  • certified mail, if the property is worth more than $1,000 (Mo. Ann. Stat. § 140.150).

How to Stop a Missouri Property Tax Sale

You can prevent the tax sale from taking place by paying the delinquent taxes, penalty, interest, and costs at any time before the sale (Mo. Ann. Stat. § 140.150).

What Happens at the Tax Sale

The tax sale consists of a public auction where the collector sells the home to the highest bidder, so long as the highest bid equals or exceeds the amount of the outstanding taxes, penalty, interest, and costs (Mo. Ann. Stat. § 140.190).

What happens if no one buys the home at the sale.  If no one bids the minimum amount at the sale, then the collector will hold a second sale the following year (Mo. Ann. Stat. § 140.240). (Tax sales are typically held annually.)

What happens if no one buys the home at the second sale.  If no one bids the amount of the outstanding taxes, penalty, interest, and costs at the second offering, then the collector will hold a third sale (Mo. Ann. Stat. § 140.250). If no one buys the property at this third sale, the collector will be authorized to try to sell it at subsequent sales.

How Long the Redemption Period Lasts After a Tax Sale in Missouri

If you lose your home to a tax sale in Missouri, you can reclaim it by paying a certain amount:

  • within one year after the sale, if it was sold at a first or second offering, or
  • within 90 days if the property was sold at a third offering (Mo. Ann. Stat. § 140.340).

This is called “redeeming” the home. If you don't redeem, you'll lose the home to the purchaser from the tax sale.

There is no redemption period if someone purchases the home after a fourth or subsequent sale. (Learn more in Getting Your Home Back After a Property Tax Sale in Missouri.)  

Missouri’s Property Tax Sale Laws

To locate Missouri’s tax sale statutes, go to Title X, Chapter 140, § § 140.010 through 140.722 of the Missouri Revised Statutes. You can find a link to the statutes on the Missouri General Assembly’s webpage atwww.moga.mo.gov. (If you have trouble finding the statutes, see Nolo’s  Legal Research FAQs & Basic Info  area.)

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