Delinquent property taxes
The following Tampa Tribune editorial sounds more like a PSA than an opinion piece. Still the message is quite clear, failure to pay your property taxes can never be considered a wise move. Always make certain your taxes are paid, especially if its done by your mortgage company. I know of one instance of where a homeowner nearly lost their home due to mistakes made by their lender. The owner is ultimately responsible.
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Ad valorem property taxes are necessary for operating public schools and county and municipal governments. Fair or unfair, they are an annual obligation, and property owners' failure to pay can lead to ugly consequences, including losing a home to someone looking for an easy investment.
Not paying triggers a two-pronged process. Taxes not paid by April 1 every year are considered delinquent. With Florida's lack of a personal income tax to help fund governments being one factor, state law authorizes tax collectors to conduct public 'tax certificate' sales on the outstanding debts.
Anyone can purchase a certificate by paying the back tax, plus fees and interest, on the property in question. That person then holds a lien on the property. The onus is then on the property owner to pay back the person holding the certificate, often at a much higher cost because of high interest rates charged, among other factors.
A few weeks ago, Pasco Tax Collector Mike Olson completed his annual sale, bringing in about $16.65 million on 8,928 parcels with delinquent taxes. Though the law allowing these sales may seem harsh, it is necessary so governments can continue operating uninterrupted or without tapping emergency reserves. In addition, property owners have plenty of time to pay their taxes, which are due in November, and discounts are given for early payment.
It's always a good idea to double-check to make sure your taxes are paid if you're not writing the check yourself. Many people depend upon their mortgage companies to make the payments from their escrow accounts, but it's not unheard of for mistakes to be made. A call to your mortgage company or, better yet, checking with Olson's office either in person, on the telephone or through his Web site
(taxcollector.pascogov.com) will confirm whether the bill has been paid.
Having a stranger holding a lien, or loan, on your property is unsettling enough, but it could get much worse. If you don't make good with the lien holder within two years or fail to pay taxes two straight years, your home or other property can be put up for sale at public auction.
As serious as this is, state law does require that homeowners on the losing end receive 50 percent of the assessed taxable value of the property sold; opening bids must include this amount. Still, no one should want their home sold involuntarily because a tax bill wasn't paid. Realizing that not everyone can afford to pay in a lump sum, Olson's office does offer installment plans in many instances.
Be aware that land speculators and other investors eye these tax certificate sales every year because there is a lot of money to be made