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Help for unpaid and delinquent property taxes.

Many state and county governments allow homeowners the ability to enter into property tax installment plans. Some of these programs have been recently created as a result of the housing crisis and the national recession. With many homeowners struggling, the fact remains that if you do not pay your property taxes on time, then they will become delinquent. In a worst case scenario you could even have your home sold in a local tax auction.

If you do not pay your tax bill on time, most governments will charge you interest, fees and / or other penalties. This will accrue as well, usually per month, on your unpaid property taxes. The good news is that usually these extra charges can be rolled into some form of an installment plan. Another benefit is that when you enter into the plan these fees and additional charges may stop accruing on your account. However the exact details and terms of the plan will vary based upon your local municipality.

How long do I have to pay?

As with anything having to do with property taxes, the exact terms will vary based upon your local government rules and regulations. That being said, the range may be anywhere from one to up to ten years. Some of it is also open to negotiation. Make sure that the terms of any agreement are adhered too and that all payments are made on time.

If the taxes still are not paid after that timeframe, than a public auction may be be held and your home will be sold at the auction. If you do not want to lose your home in the auction, just make timely payments on your installment plan.

What if I lost my job?

Many assessors and tax collectors across the nation have been allowed to create special hardship funds, primarily as a result of the weak economy and job market. Some programs allow the creation of property tax installment plans for property owner(s) who are delinquent in paying taxes as a result of saying being unemployed for the last several months.




Any negotiated program will be effective after the local government officials have thoroughly reviewed the owner’s ability to pay and the request from the homeowners. Oftentimes the plans may require the submission of an affidavit stating the reasons for the request for a payment plan, so the homeowner is held to the terms of the deal.

What are the conditions of property tax installment plans?

The exact terms and details will vary from county to county and state to state. Some of the common criteria include the following:

  • The homeowner will need to swear, under penalty of law, that their application and that the conditions that they gave for eligibility for the tax installment plan are true.
  • The applicant will need to be the owner of the real estate property according to the assessors records.
  • Of course the homeowner must have been delinquent on paying their property taxes, and it usually needs to be a recent issue and hardship that the person is facing.
  • The homeowner will need to pay each and every monthly or quarterly installment on time. Usually if they miss a single payment then the agreement will be null and voided.

Property tax abatements

Other states and parts of the country offer additional options. As one example, Vermont will completely waive unpaid property taxes and the homeowner will not be responsible for even paying one dollar. This is called a property tax abatement. Vermont law states that towns and cities across the state may in effect abate a person's property tax, collection fees, interest, and any other charges because he or she is unable to pay the bills. Other states and municipalities may offer similar services. Be sure to ask your local tax collector about an abatement as well, as one may exist in your state or county.





How do I start the process and who do I contact

If you do have delinquent or unpaid property taxes, in order to enter into an property tax installment plan and to learn about any abatement or other options you may have, there are some steps to take right away.

You can either call your local government office and initiate the communication yourself. Or you can contact a property tax consultant or lawyer. Many of these professional work on a contingency basis.

Another possible source of assistance in dealing with back property taxes may be a free pro-bono attorney. A lawyer may be able to help a homeowner enter into a payment program. Most states provide low income families with free advice as part of the federal government funded Legal Services Corporation (LSC). Some of these firms deal with housing issues, including property and real estate taxes. Read more about free legal aid.

One last option, which is almost always free, is to contact your local community action agency and ask about these various options and programs. Click here to find a listing of and a community action agency. They oftentimes have housing counselors who can help you, or they may refer you to someone who can.

By Jon McNamara

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