What Happens If I Don't Pay Property Taxes in West Virginia

If you fall behind in property taxes on your West Virginia home, you could eventually lose title to your home.

Failing to pay the real property taxes on your West Virginia home could lead to a tax lien sale. If this happens, you could eventually lose ownership of your home if you don’t get caught up on the overdue amounts. Find out below what notice you’ll get before you lose your home following a tax lien sale in West Virginia, how the tax lien sale process works, and how you can save your home after the sale.

West Virginia Property Tax Lien Sales

If you fall behind in your real property taxes in West Virginia, the past-due amount (including taxes, interest, and other charges resulting from the delinquency) becomes a lien on your home (W. Va. Code § 11A-1-2). (If you are struggling to pay your property taxes, learn about your options to avoid a tax sale.)

The lien attaches to your home on July 1st for the upcoming year. The first installment of taxes is due on September 1st and becomes delinquent on October 1st. The second installment is due on the following March 1st and becomes delinquent on April 1st (W. Va. Code § 11A-1-3).

If you don’t pay the taxes, the sheriff (who collects the taxes) can sell the lien at a public auction (W. Va. Code § 11A-3-5).

Notice Prior to the Tax Lien Sale

Under West Virginia law, the sheriff must give you written notice before the lien sale, as well as publish notice of the sale before it takes place.

Notice you’ll receive before the tax lien sale. The sheriff will send you, by certified mail, a notice of the delinquency along with the sale date at least 30 days before the sale (W. Va. Code § 11A-3-2).

Notice of the sale must also be published. The sheriff must also publish the notice in a newspaper. If there is no newspaper, the sheriff will post the notice in a public place (W. Va. Code § § 11A-3-2, 59-3-2).

The Tax Lien Sale

At the tax lien sale, the sheriff will sell the lien to the highest bidder. The high bidder (the purchaser) gets a certificate of sale (W. Va. Code § 11A-3-14). If no one makes a bid, the sheriff will issue the certificate to the state auditor, which is the state’s official bookkeeper (W. Va. Code § § 11A-3-5, 11A-3-8).

How the purchaser gets title to your home. The purchaser from the auction can apply for a tax deed to get title to your home at any time after October 31st of the year after the sheriff’s sale, and on or before December 31st of that same year (W. Va. Code § 11A-3-19). The earliest that the lien purchaser can get the tax deed from the county clerk is April 1st of the second year following the tax lien sale (usually around a year and a half after the sale). As soon as the deed is recorded, you lose ownership of the home (W. Va. Code § 11A-3-21).

If the purchaser doesn’t apply for the deed within 18 months after the certificate is issued, the purchaser’s rights are forfeited (W. Va. Code § 11A-3-18). (This means the purchaser loses the chance to get title to your home.)

Your Right to Redeem After the Lien Sale in West Virginia

In West Virginia, you can save your home at any time before the tax deed is issued. To do this, you must pay the owed taxes, interest, and various other amounts (W. Va. Code § 11A-3-23). This is called redeeming the home. (Learn more in Getting Your Home Back After a Property Tax Sale in West Virginia.)

Notice of your right to redeem. You’ll receive a notice about your right to redeem and how to protect your ownership in the property when the purchaser applies for the deed (W. Va. Code § § 11A-3-19, 11A-3-22).

How to Find West Virginia’s Tax Sale Laws

To find the statutes on the collection and enforcement of property taxes in West Virginia, go to Chapter 11A, Article 1 through Article 4, § § 11A-1-1 through 11A-4-7. You can find the West Virginia Code on the West Virginia Legislature’s website at www.legis.state.wv.us. (If you need help finding the statutes, see Nolo’s Legal Research FAQs & Basic Info area.)

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