Tax sale is a process the local government uses to try to collect money if you are behind on your property taxes. Some counties also use tax sale if you are behind on water bills or have other liens on your house.
In Maryland, if you are behind at least $250 on property taxes, those taxes become a lien on your property. A lien is a debt that is attached to your property, like a mortgage. In Baltimore City you must be behind at least $750 to face tax sale.
Every year your county holds a “Tax Sale” auction. At the auction, the county can sell the lien against your house to an investor who bids on it. If the county is going to sell your tax lien, they have to send you a notice and publish this information in the newspaper before the tax sale.
If an investor buys your tax lien at a tax sale, the investor will get a “tax lien certificate.” The certificate means that the investor now owns the tax lien. The investor can collect fees related to the tax sale and can charge you interest. You have at least 6 months after the tax sale to pay to keep your house – this is called the “right to redeem” your property. The longer you wait to pay, the more expensive it will be to keep the house because of the interest and fees. In Baltimore City you have at least 9 months to redeem your property.
After at least 6 months (9 months in Baltimore City), the investor can file a “Complaint to Foreclose the Right to Redeem” in court. This court process asks the court to officially make the investor the owner of the property. If the court gives the investor the right to the house, the investor must then record a new deed to officially become the owner of the property.
Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service and the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau both provide free legal representation for a variety of civil legal issues. You can contact Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service at (800) 510-0050 or visit http://www.mvlslaw.org/clients. You can contact the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau at (800) 999-8904 or http://www.mdlab.org/contact.