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

If you can't pay your property taxes in Ohio, you could eventually lose ownership of your home in a tax sale.

If you fail to pay your property taxes in Ohio, you’ll most likely face a tax foreclosure or a tax lien sale. You will get notice before either of these things happen, as well as the opportunity to get caught up on the delinquent amounts (plus interest, fees, and costs), which should hopefully allow you to keep your home. If you aren't able to pay up, you’ll eventually lose ownership of your home permanently.

What Happens When You Fall Behind on Property Taxes in Ohio

When you don’t pay your Ohio property taxes, the overdue amount becomes what's called a "lien" on your home. The county treasurer can then either foreclose or sell the lien (and whoever purchases the lien may foreclose after a certain amount of time passes). (Learn about your  options if you can't pay the property taxes on your home.)

How Ohio Tax Foreclosures Work

If your Ohio property taxes are overdue, the county treasurer can start a foreclosure against you in court (Ohio Rev. Code § 5721.18). The court will enter a judgment and order the home sold at auction to satisfy the tax debt. After the court confirms the sale, the winning bidder gets a deed, which gives him or her ownership of your home (Ohio Rev. Code § 5721.19).

Notice of the tax foreclosure.  When the county treasurer files the foreclosure with the court, you’ll get a copy of the complaint (the lawsuit) and a summons. You get 28 days to respond to the complaint.

Notice of the sale.  Once the court orders a sale, notice of the sale must be published in a newspaper once a week for three weeks (Ohio Rev. Code § 5721.19).

Your right to stop the tax foreclosure.  You can  stop the foreclosure and save your home at any time before the court confirms the sale by paying the taxes, assessments, penalties, interest, fees, and court costs (Ohio Rev. Code § 5721.25). This is called “redeeming” the home. After the Ohio court confirms the sale, however, you lose ownership of the property.

How Ohio Tax Lien Sales Work

Instead of carrying out a foreclosure, the county treasurer may choose to sell the lien that exists on your home at an auction or, in some cases, in a negotiated sale (a private sale). At a tax lien auction, the winning bidder is whoever bids the lowest rate of interest on the debt (Ohio Rev. Code § 5721.32). After the sale, the purchaser gets a tax certificate and becomes the owner of the lien.

Notice of the tax lien sale.  The county treasurer must send you a notice by certified mail at least 30 days before the sale. It must also publish the notice of sale in a newspaper (Ohio Rev. Code § 5721.31). But this will probably be on a back page somewhere -- you're unlikely to come across it unless you're looking for it.

Your right to redeem after the tax lien sale.  After the tax lien sale, you get one year to pay off all lien charges and interest (Ohio Rev. Code § 5721.38). This is also called redeeming the property. (Learn more in  Getting Your Home Back After a Property Tax Sale in Ohio.)

What happens if you don’t redeem during the year-long redemption period.  If you don’t redeem during the one-year redemption period, the tax lien purchaser can foreclose on your Ohio property by filing a lawsuit with the court. As part of the foreclosure, the home will be sold to satisfy the debt. You can still redeem up until the court confirms the sale, which finalizes the foreclosure (Ohio Rev. Code § 5721.38). Once the foreclosure is finalized, you lose ownership of the home.

Where to Find Ohio’s Tax Laws

If you want to read Ohio’s statutes covering tax foreclosures and tax lien sales, the citations are: Ohio Revised Code § § 5721.01 through 5721.43.

To find the Ohio statutes, go to  http://codes.ohio.gov. (If you need help finding the statutes, see Nolo’s  Legal Research FAQs & Basic Info  area.)

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