What Happens If You Don't Pay Property Taxes on Your Home?

What happens if you don’t pay property taxes? You might lose your home. Here’s how.

By , Attorney · University of Denver Sturm College of Law

People who own real estate must pay property taxes. These taxes fund services the government provides, like schools, libraries, roads, parks, and the like. The amount of tax due is usually based on the home's assessed value.

But what happens if you don't pay your property taxes? First, the delinquent amount becomes a lien on the home. Then, if you don't pay off the debt, the taxing authority could sell your home, possibly through a tax foreclosure or tax deed process. Or the taxing authority might sell the tax lien that it holds, and the purchaser might be able to foreclose or use other procedures to get a deed to the property.

Each state has a different tax sale process. Go to the chart below to learn about the process in your state.

The Taxing Authority Might Hold a Tax Sale

Once a property tax lien is on a home, the taxing authority, such as the county, might eventually hold a tax sale. Generally, the two basic types of tax sales are "tax deed sales" and "tax lien certificate sales."

What Is a Tax Deed Sale?

In a tax deed sale, the taxing authority sells the home outright. The buyer gets a deed (title) to the property.

However, the purchaser might not get the deed to the property immediately. Sometimes, a redemption period must expire before the buyer gets the deed.

What Is a Tax Lien Certificate Sale?

In a tax lien certificate sale, the taxing authority sells the tax lien. The purchaser gets the right to collect the debt, penalties, and interest.

If the homeowner doesn't pay the delinquent amounts by a particular deadline, the lien purchaser can typically foreclose or follow other procedures to convert the certificate to a deed. By going through a state-specific process, the person or entity that bought the tax lien can get ownership of the property.

Other Tax Sale Procedures

However, in some jurisdictions, a sale isn't held. Instead, the taxing authority executes its lien by taking title to the home. State law then generally provides a procedure for the taxing authority to dispose of the property, usually by selling it.

In other jurisdictions, the taxing authority uses a foreclosure process before holding a sale.

How Long Can You Go Without Paying Your Property Taxes?

Exactly how long you can go without paying your property taxes varies significantly by jurisdiction. Generally, one to three years must expire before a home can be sold to recover unpaid taxes.

Again, the specific process and the length of time you can go without paying property taxes before losing your home varies by location, so talk to your local taxing authority or an attorney to get specifics about where you live.

You can also review the chart below and the links to state-specific articles to learn more about the tax sale process in your state.

Your Right to Redeem the Home Before or After a Tax Sale

In many states, the homeowner can "redeem" the home after a tax sale. "Redeeming" means reimbursing the buyer the amount they paid at the sale (or paying the taxes owed), plus interest and costs, within a limited time, to reclaim the property.

Exactly how long the redemption period lasts varies from state to state. But usually, the homeowner gets at least a year after a tax sale to redeem the property.

In some states, though, the redemption period happens before the sale.

Taxing Authority Can't Keep the Profits After a Tax Sale

On May 25, 2023, a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Tyler v. Hennepin County that it's unconstitutional for the state or local government to take your home to cover your property tax bill and then keep the profits.

What Happens to the Profits After a Tax Sale?

Most states and the federal government require that profits go to the taxpayer after a property is sold to satisfy an outstanding tax debt. For example, if you owed $15,000 in taxes, but the property sold for $40,000 (as in the Tyler case), the $25,000 in profits would go to the homeowner.

But Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, South Dakota, and the District of Columbia have historically kept the surplus profits after property tax sales. And in certain circumstances, Alaska, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, and Wisconsin have allowed this practice, too.

Supreme Court Rules Keeping Proceeds Beyond the Amount Owed Is Unconstitutional

In Tyler, the county of Hennepin in Minnesota sold Geraldine Tyler's home at auction for $40,000 after failing to collect a $15,000 property tax debt. But instead of returning the $25,000 profit to Tyler, the county kept the surplus for its own use.

The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits the government from taking private property for public use without just compensation. (This provision is called the "Takings Clause").

The U.S. Supreme Court in Tyler unanimously ruled that the county had "effected a classic taking in which the government directly appropriates private property for its own use." So, a state tax regime that allows the taxing authority to pocket the extra profits after collecting unpaid property taxes through a tax sale procedure is unconstitutional.

Refunds for Homeowners Who Lost Their Equity

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Tyler v. Hennepin County means many counties and other taxing authorities might have to pay back millions to homeowners who lost their equity after tax sales. Homeowners in Oregon filed a class action lawsuit against the counties in that state after local governments foreclosed on their homes and kept the entire proceeds rather than just the amount needed to cover the delinquent taxes.

Other places have already started to repay funds to taxpayers. In Michigan, 43 counties agreed to pay millions of dollars to former homeowners who filed a class action lawsuit after losing their equity in tax sales, and the District of Columbia agreed to pay about $1 million to people who lost their homes and equity to tax sales.

What Happens to My Mortgage in a Tax Sale?

In many cases, when a home has a mortgage on it, the loan servicer collects money from the borrower as part of the monthly mortgage payment to later pay the property taxes. The servicer pays the taxes on the homeowner's behalf through an escrow account. But if the taxes aren't collected and paid through this kind of account, the homeowner must pay them directly.

If your loan isn't escrowed and you fail to pay the property taxes like you're supposed to, your loan servicer will probably pay the delinquent amount and then bill you for them. But why is the servicer concerned about unpaid property taxes? Because a property tax lien has priority.

Property Tax Liens Have Priority Over Other Liens

Property tax liens almost always have priority over other liens, including mortgage liens and deed of trust liens. (For purposes of this discussion, the terms "mortgage" and "deed of trust" are used interchangeably.)

Because a property tax lien has priority, mortgages get wiped out if you lose your home through a tax sale process. So, the loan servicer will usually advance money to pay delinquent property taxes to prevent this from happening. Most mortgages have a clause allowing the lender to add the amount it paid to your loan balance. You'll then have to make repayment arrangements with the servicer.

Your Mortgage Lender Might Foreclose

The terms of most mortgage contracts require the borrower to stay current on the property taxes. If you don't reimburse the servicer for the tax amount it paid, you'll be in default. The servicer can then foreclose on the home in the same manner as if you had fallen behind in monthly payments.

Your Servicer Might Set Up an Escrow Account

Your servicer will probably set up an escrow account for the loan after demanding repayment of the amount it paid for the taxes, penalties, and interest (assuming you repay this tax debt). Each month, you'll have to pay approximately one-twelfth of the estimated annual cost of property taxesand perhaps other expenses, like insurance, along with your usual monthly payment of principal and interest. This money goes into the escrow account.

The loan servicer then pays the taxes and other escrow items on your behalf through the escrow account.

What Gives the Servicer the Right to Set Up an Escrow Account?

Many mortgages have a clause allowing the lender to establish an escrow account at any time it chooses. The servicer sets up and manages the account on behalf of the lender.

To find out if and when the lender can set up an escrow account for your loan, read your mortgage contract and any other relevant documentation you've signed, like an escrow waiver.

Getting Help With Paying Your Property Taxes

If you're having trouble paying your property taxes, you might be able to reduce your tax bill or get extra time to pay.

Tax Sale Information By State

In the chart below, you'll find details on property tax laws and the tax sale process used most often in different states, with citations to statutes so you can learn more. Statutes change, so checking them is always a good idea. How courts and agencies interpret and apply the law can also change. And some rules can even vary within a state. These are just some of the reasons to consider consulting an attorney if you're facing a tax sale.

Click on the link for your state to get details about the process where you live. Be aware that the redemption period is sometimes extended for minors, incapacitated persons, or military servicemembers or reduced or eliminated if the property is abandoned. The chart doesn't include this information.

State Most Common Procedure Redemption Period
Alabama Tax lien sale Generally, if the state buys the lien, you may redeem at any time before the title passes out of the state or, if someone else buys the lien, within three years from the sale date. (Ala. Code § 40-10-120.)
Alaska Tax foreclosure One year. (Alaska Stat. § 29.45.400.) The right of redemption expires 30 days after the date of the first redemption period expiration notice. (Alaska Stat. § 29.45.440.)
Arizona Tax lien sale Three-year redemption period after the sale. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 42-18152.)
Arkansas Tax forfeiture You can redeem the home before certification to the Commissioner of State Lands and at any time up until the sale. Also, within ten days (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays) after the sale. (Ark. Code § 26-37-202.)
California Tax sale You get five years after you fall behind in taxes to get current on the delinquent amounts. After five years, if you don't redeem, the tax collector can sell your home. (Cal. Rev. & Tax. Code § 3691.)
Colorado Tax lien sale Three-year redemption period after a tax lien sale. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 39-11-120). Also, you can redeem at any time before the execution of a treasurer's deed giving the purchaser, or the county, title to your home. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 39-12-103.)
Connecticut Tax sale or tax foreclosure Usually six months after a tax sale, but the time frame can vary depending on the circumstances. (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 12-157). In a tax foreclosure, the court sets the time limit for redemption. (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 12-181.)
Delaware Tax sale 60 days after the sale. (Del. Code tit. 9 § 8729.)
District of Columbia Tax sale Following the sale, the purchaser must wait six months before it takes steps to foreclose your right to redeem. After foreclosing your right of redemption, the purchaser will own your home. You can redeem at any time up until the foreclosure is final. (D.C. Code § 47-1360, § 47-1370.)
Florida Tax lien sale and then tax deed sale if you don't pay Any time before the county issues the tax deed to the new owner, but not if the court clerk has already received full payment for the deed. (Fla. Stat. § 197.472).
Georgia Tax sale 12-month redemption period after the sale. (Ga. Code § 48-4-40).
Hawaii Once the lien has been in existence for three years, the tax collector can sell the home at a public auction One year after the sale. But if the deed isn't recorded within 60 days after the sale, then the redemption period is one year from the recording date. (Haw. Rev. Stat. § 231-67.)
Idaho County gets title through a tax deed process, then holds sale Three years after taxes become delinquent. (Idaho Code § 63-1005.) And 14 months after issuance of tax deed to county, unless county commissioners have extinguished right of redemption by entering into a contract of sale or the property has been transferred by county deed. (Idaho Code § 31-808.)
Illinois Tax sale (annual) Typically, two years and six months after the sale, although the time frame might be different depending on the circumstances. (35 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 200/21-350.)
Indiana Tax sale Generally, one year after the sale to pay the redemption amount and reclaim the home following the sale. (Ind. Code § 6-1.1-25-4). Sometimes, 120 days. (Ind. Code § 6-1.1-24-9, § 6-1.1-25-4).
Iowa Tax sale In most cases, the redemption period is one year and nine months after the sale. (Iowa Code § 447.9.) After the redemption period expires, another 90 days after purchaser mails a notice about the right to redeem expiring. (Iowa Code § 447.9, § 447.12.)
Kansas Tax sale then foreclosure One to three years after the county acquires it at a tax sale, depending on the circumstances. Also, you can redeem until the day before the public sale in the foreclosure process. (Kansas Stat. § 79-2803.)
Kentucky Tax foreclosure by collector or tax lien sale and foreclosure Foreclosure by collector: Right to redeem at any time before the foreclosure sale takes place. (Ky. Rev. Stat. §§ 91.4884, 91.511). Also, 60 days after the sale if the purchase price is less than the home's assessed value. (Ky. Rev. Stat. §§ 91.4884, 91.511). Tax lien sale and foreclosure: The purchaser can't start a lawsuit to foreclose until one year after the date the taxes became delinquent. (Ky. Rev. Stat. § 134.546.) Also, an additional redemption period if the property is sold for less than the assessed value. If the property sold for less than two-thirds of its appraised value at the sale, the additional redemption period is six months. (Ky. Rev. Stat. §§ 134.546, 426.530.) If the state, county, or taxing district forecloses the lien, the property may be redeemed at any time before the master commissioner gives a deed to the purchaser. (Ky. Rev. Stat. § 134.549.)
Louisiana Tax sale Generally, three years after the date the tax sale certificate was recorded. (La. Const. Art. VII, § 25.) But under some circumstances, the redemption period is shorter.
Maine Tax sale Two years after the tax sale. (Me. Rev. Stat. Tit. 36 § 1078.)
Maryland Tax sale (purchaser gets tax lien certificate) Property can be redeemed at any time before right of redemption is foreclosed. (Md. Code, Tax-Prop. § 14-827.)
Massachusetts Tax sale or tax taking To get free and clear ownership of your home, the buyer who purchased it at the tax sale (or the city or town, if it got your home through a taking) must foreclose your right of redemption. (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 60, § 64.) The purchaser who bought the home at the tax sale or the city or town generally must wait six months following the sale or taking before starting a foreclosure to eliminate your right of redemption. (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 60, § 65.)
Michigan Tax forfeiture and foreclosure process Unless all unpaid delinquent taxes, interest, penalties, and fees are paid on or before the March 31 immediately succeeding the entry of a judgment foreclosing the property or, in a contested case, within 21 days of the entry of a judgment foreclosing the property, the title to the property goes to the foreclosing governmental entity. So, 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.) But 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.)
Minnesota Tax judgment sale Typically, three years from the time of the tax judgment sale. (Minn. Stat. § 281.17.)
Mississippi Tax certificate sale Most homeowners get two years after the sale to redeem the home. (Miss. Code § 27-45-3, § 21-33-61.)
Missouri Tax sale Within one year after the sale and up until the deed is issued, if it was sold at a first or second offering. Ninety days if the property was sold at a third offering. (Mo. Stat. § 140.340, § 140.250). No redemption period if someone purchases the home in a fourth or subsequent sale. (Mo. Stat. § 140.250).
Montana Tax lien sale Following the tax lien sale, you must redeem by, generally, the first working day in August, three years after the attachment of the tax lien or the first working day in August, two years after the attachment of the tax lien if the property is an undeveloped lot upon which special improvement district assessments or rural special improvement district assessments are delinquent. (Mont. Code § 15-18-111.)
Nebraska Tax sale (purchaser gets tax lien certificate) At least three years after the sale. (Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 77-1837, 77-1902.)
Nevada Tax sale Two-year redemption period happens before the county gets title and can sell home at a tax sale. (Nev. Rev. Stat. §§ 361.5648, 361.570.)
New Hampshire Tax sale or alternate procedure Two years after a tax sale (N.H. Restat. §§ 80:32, 80:38.) For alternate procedure, if the taxes remain unpaid for two years from the execution of the tax lien, the tax collector deeds the property to the municipality. (N.H. Restat. § 80:76.)
New Jersey Tax sale Usually at least two years after the sale, if someone bought the certificate, or six months after the sale if the municipality got the certificate of sale. (N.J. Stat. § 54:5-86.) After the redemption period expires, the purchaser or municipality can begin a foreclosure by filing a complaint (a lawsuit) with the Superior Court. (N.J. Stat. § 54:5-86.) The court will eventually enter a judgment, which eliminates the right to redeem. (N.J. Stat. § 54:5-86, § 54:5-87).
New Mexico Tax sale Three years after the first delinquent date shown on the tax delinquency list, the Taxation and Revenue Department will schedule a sale to sell your home to pay off the tax debt. (N.M. Stat. § 7-38-67.) No redemption period after the tax sale.
New York Tax foreclosure Generally, the redemption period expires two years after the lien date. But local law may provide a longer redemption period. (N.Y. Real Prop. Tax Law § 1110.)
North Carolina Tax foreclosure (mortgage-type foreclosure or in rem foreclosure) In a mortgage-type tax foreclosure, you may redeem before the court confirms the sale. (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 105-374.) After an in rem foreclosure, You can stop the foreclosure by paying off the debt before the upset-bid period ends. (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1-339.57). North Carolina law says that payment in full of the judgment together with interest and costs cancels the judgment. (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 105-375.)
North Dakota Tax lien foreclosure and tax deed process Right to redeem at any time between the tax lien foreclosure notice and October 1. (N.D. Cent. Code § 57-28-05.) If you don't redeem by October 1, the county auditor issues a deed to county, which then sells the property. (N.D. Cent. Code § 57-28-09). Possibility of repurchasing the home after the tax lien foreclosure but before sale.
Ohio Tax lien sale or tax lien foreclosure Tax lien sale: At least one year. (Ohio Rev. Code § 5721.38). Once the one-year redemption period expires, the tax-lien purchaser can foreclose. Redemption allowed up until the court confirms the foreclosure sale. (Ohio Rev. Code § 5721.38.) Tax lien foreclosure: Any time before the court confirms the sale. (Ohio Rev. Code § 5721.25.)
Oklahoma Tax sale If you don't pay your property taxes for three or more years, the county treasurer can sell your home to satisfy the unpaid debt. (Okla. Stat. tit. 68 § 3105, § 3125.) Redemption must happen before the county treasurer executes the deed to the new owner. (Okla. Stat. Tit. 68 § 3113.)
Oregon Tax foreclosure Two years after the foreclosure judgment. (Or. Rev. Stat. § 312.120, § 312.200.) Shortened redemption period in cases of waste or abandonment. (Or. Rev. Stat. § 312.122.)
Pennsylvania Tax sale Pennsylvania's Real Estate Tax Sale Law generally says that you can't redeem your home after a sale. (72 P.S. § 5860.501.) But you might be able to redeem in some circumstances. Some counties permit redemption.
Rhode Island Tax sale Purchaser must wait one year after the sale before starting the foreclosure to eliminate right of redemption. (R.I. Gen. Laws § 44-9-25.) So, the redemption period generally lasts at least one year after the sale. Right to redeem lasts up until the purchaser files the petition for foreclosure. (R.I. Gen. Laws § 44-9-21.) To redeem after that, you must go through the court that is handling the foreclosure. (R.I. Gen. Laws § 44-9-29).
South Carolina Tax sale Twelve months. (S.C. Code § 12-51-90.)
South Dakota Tax lien sale Three years after tax certificate sale. (S.D. Codified Laws § 10-25-1.) After redemption period expires, to get the tax deed, the person or entity that bought the certificate at the sale (or the county) must personally serve a written notice of the intent to get a tax deed and giving an additional 60 days to redeem. (S.D. Codified Laws §§ 10-25-2, 10-25-5.)
Tennessee Tax lawsuit and then sale Redemption period of one year begins when the court enters an order confirming the sale. The redemption period may be reduced in some circumstances. (Tenn. Code § 67-5-2701.)
Texas Tax foreclosure In most cases, two years after the date the deed from the foreclosure sale is filed in the county records. (Tex. Tax Code § 34.21.)
Utah Tax sale after taxes are four years delinquent No post-sale redemption period. (Utah Code §§ 59-2-1346, 59-2-1351.1.)
Vermont Tax deed sale, purchaser gets a deed after the redemption period expires One year after the sale. (Vt. Stat. Tit. 32 § 5260.)
Virginia Tax foreclosure No redemption period after a sale resulting from a tax foreclosure. The redemption period happens before the sale. Typically, redemption must happen by 5:00 on the day prior to the auction. (Va. Code § 58.1-3965). Check with the county treasurer to find out the exact deadline.
Washington Tax foreclosure Usually, no right to redeem after the sale resulting from the tax foreclosure. Redemption allowed at any time before the close of business the day before the sale date. (Wash. Rev. Code § 84.64.070.)
West Virginia Tax lien sale Redemption allowed at any time before the tax deed is issued. (W. Va. Code § 11A-3-23.) People generally get around 18 months to redeem after the sale, but the redemption period might be different.
Wisconsin Tax certificate to county and deed process Most people get a two-year redemption period before the county can start the process to get title to the property. (Wis. Stat. § 74.57.) One year in some circumstances. Exactly when the right to redeem ends depends on which process the county uses to get title to the home following the redemption period.
Wyoming Tax lien sale Four-year redemption period after tax lien sale. (Wyo. Stat. § 39-13-108.)

Talk to a Foreclosure attorney.
We've helped 75 clients find attorneys today.
There was a problem with the submission. Please refresh the page and try again
Full Name is required
Email is required
Please enter a valid Email
Phone Number is required
Please enter a valid Phone Number
Zip Code is required
Please add a valid Zip Code
Please enter a valid Case Description
Description is required

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you