Anyone that owns a property in Pennsylvania is at risk of having their property sold at tax sale if they don’t pay their real estate taxes for two years. The next year your property will be listed for an Upset Tax Sale.
What is a tax sale?
There are several different kinds of tax sales. The first is called an Upset Tax Sale and takes place on the second Monday of September. An upset tax sale does not discharge judgment liens or mortgages so the purchaser at an Upset Tax Sale buys the property under and subject to those liens. Therefore, most properties that are sold at an upset tax sale have little or no judgment liens or mortgage liens on the property.
If the property is not sold at an Upset Tax Sale the Tax Claim Bureau (“Bureau”) will hold a Judicial Tax Sale where judgment liens and mortgages can be discharged. This will be held after the lienholders and owners are notified of the Judicial Tax Sale.
How does the tax sale work?
The Bureau must give the owner of the property three types of notice before the tax sale: publication, certified mail and posting.
If any is defective, the sale is void.
In addition, no owner-occupied property may be sold unless the Bureau has given the owner occupant written notice of such sale at least ten (10) days prior to the date of the actual sale by personal service of the notice.
Finally, if the certified mail is either returned without the required personal signature or under other circumstances raising a significant doubt as to the actual receipt of such notification by the owner, then, before the tax sale can be conducted the Bureau must exercise reasonable efforts to discover the whereabouts of such person or entity and notify him/her.
Can you save your property?
Yes, you can. However, you have to act quickly as soon as you find out about the sale. Even if you have no defenses and your property has been sold at tax sale, by contacting a lawyer experienced in this area of the law, you can almost always negotiate a settlement with the purchaser of the property at tax sale. If any of the statutory requirements are not strictly adhered to, then the attorney will help you to file a petition to have the tax sale set aside and voided.
When should you hire an attorney?
The most important thing is that you act promptly. The sooner you act the more chance you have to overturn the tax sale or make a settlement with the purchaser.
Michael’s personal practice supports the needs of businesses and homeowners in a changing economic environment. He has extensive experience in mortgage foreclosures, collections and loan workouts, general counsel work and real estate litigation. Michael has been with MacElree Harvey, Ltd. since 1980.
If you have any questions regarding a banking and finance litigation matter, contact Michael Louis at [email protected] or (610) 840-0228.