How long does it take for a house to be sold for taxes?


We just found out that my husband's 91 yr old mother hasn't paid the taxes on her house since 2010. We found out when my husband's cousin called him in a panic to tell him the house was in foreclosure. We went online to check it out, and sure enough, she owes over $12000. He has been trying to get POA from her for years, trying to get financial information, but it's like pulling teeth. Now he's on his way up there (1200 miles from our door to hers) to find out what's going on and get it taken care of. We can't afford this, but if her house is in foreclosure, my Mom will loan the money to get it taken care of. She couldn't afford rent anywhere, that's for sure. At least her house is free and clear.

Any suggestions on how he can handle this situation? She's an ex-marine. Just got back from an honor flight to Washington DC for her service in WW II. They had a big write up in the paper about her - if they try to take her house away, I'm thinking a call to the same newspaper would be in order.

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My husband (Doug) left yesterday so he can be up there by (hopefully) tonight and start getting things resolved first thing tomorrow morning. The first call will be to the County, to find out exactly what the status of the house is. Doug will then call a lawyer to get any legal issues taken care of.

The foreclosure is ONLY for unpaid taxes. There are no other liens on it, although we are going to put one on it for the amount we pay for the back taxes. This money is coming from my Mom, and although she is regarding it as a gift, if Doug's Mom decides to sell the house at some point, I'd like to be able to give that money back to my Mom.

I just got a call from Doug. I-5 is a parking lot. He may not make it tonight - it may be tomorrow after all. Hopefully he can at least make it to our daughter's in Portland so he's got a free place to stay the night, then on to Spokane tomorrow. I knew it was a bad idea to travel over the holiday weekend, but there really wasn't an alternative.

Thanks for listening everyone, and for the great ideas. I'm going to go look at some of those websites. Thanks again.
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Here in a small city, if the tax bills are unpaid for two years, the city then files for reimbursement from the county. The county then proceeds to auction the house off at the county tax sale. CALL THE LAWYER on Tuesday morning. PLEASE.
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This is scary google:
Pa. judge upholds tax sale of widow's home over $6 bill: Shocking?
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Whoops. Accidentally hit "submit" before I finished.

5. This site provides limited information on foreclosure sales by state, but only for mortgage defaults. If the link gets deleted, google "foreclosure laws and redemption periods by state."


Although not applicable to tax foreclosures, it gives you an idea what information is available until someone can speak with the Treasurer's Office.

I did see that some states don't have redemption periods at all, which is unfortunate.

6. This is another good site (National Consumer Law Center):

7. Your cousin may be able to review the documents she found and find a date for the foreclosure sale, or better yet, either scan and e-mail them to you or fax them.

8. Beyond the issue of assessing your MIL's overall legal and financial situation, I can tell you that from my limited experience it's not unusual for elders to miss important bills. I set up a system for my father and inventory all his monthly, quarterly and annual bills to ensure that they get paid. Actually I did that for my sister as well after she developed "chemo brain."

In my experience older people's focus shift to things like survival before worrying about bills. Older minds can only deal with just so much information (as I'm finding out as I inch toward 70).

9. Sit down, have a cup of herbal tea or lemonade (or favorite drink of choice!), and relax. The foreclosure is the highest priority so limit your worries to one project at a time! (That's what I force myself to do!)

10. As to the clutter, don't push it. WWII and Depression Era elders save things that today's younger people would not consider worth saving (such as string, aluminum foil) and cleaning out your MIL's home might be just too much for her right now, especially if she has a lot of military memorabilia.

11. A good elder law attorney in your mother's area can handle the tax foreclosure issue as well as estate planning issues. State Bar Directories usually list practice groups within the Bar; that's also a good place to start to get names of potential attorneys. Then check out their websites, either e-mail or phone interview them with a list of questions, including their rates.

Some elder law attorneys bill on a flat rate basis which includes specific documents; others bill on an hourly basis. In our area it's not uncommon for well qualified attorneys to be billing at $300 + per hour.

Good luck.
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Equillot, further thoughts...

1. It's my understanding that notices of sale have to specify a date. Perhaps none has been set yet.

2. Redemption rights vary by state. In Michigan, the homeowners have 6 months from the date of the foreclosure sale of a mortgage to redeem the property if it's occupied (by the owner, only, I believe - not sure about tenant's rights.) It's only 1 month if the property is vacant.

3. I don't know if redemption rights apply to foreclosure sales for defaulted taxes but generally speaking it would make sense that redemptions rights apply to any foreclosure sales because the purpose is to allowo the title holder a chance to regain the property.

4. Redemption would require payment of the full amount of the taxes plus foreclosure costs, such as advertising, sheriff's cost for handling the sale, etc. There would likely be penalities and monthly interest accruals as well.

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Since she is a vet she may qualify for free legal help with this. Did she forget to pay? Does she have dementia? Did she not understand what the bill was?
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In my area tax sales are held once a year. Normally any worthwhile property in default on taxes has been cured by reaching agreement with the county. What those agreements are I have no idea. You can pose questions to attorneys in her state on the AVVO website. You will probably receive several replies at no cost. It has been helpful to me.
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I don't know if it's been advertised at all. We just found out about this yesterday - on the holiday weekend, of course, and MIL is not giving us any information over the phone. We wouldn't have known at all if it hadn't have been for my husband's alcoholic cousin living with her. I believe she found the paperwork and panicked. What we saw on the internet was the amount due as on May 16th, so I'm assuming that's the date the notice was sent out. They didn't have a date of sale on the foreclosure list that I saw.

We will definitely get an attorney ASAP. We need to get a POA, we need to get her house out of foreclosure, we need to get her estate matters cleared up, we need to get someone from the council on aging to evaluate her and find out what services she is eligible for, we need to find out what assets, if any, she has, other than the house, we need to start sorting through the awful hoarded clutter that she has saved for years (not nasty stuff, just things she finds "valuable") - all these things "we" have to do, and I'm stuck 1200 miles away, taking care of my own mother. I feel so helpless. I know my husband is having a really hard time. I know he was always depending on me to be the one to help him do this, and now he's having to do it alone. Forgive me for rambling.....
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Forgot to address your original question. Call the County Treasurer in which the house is located and ask them how long before a tax foreclosure can take place. They should also tell you the date of the sheriff's sale (when the house is sold for unpaid taxes). In Michigan, it's held at the County Courthouse.

I'm also assuming that the foreclosure you discovered in your online search was for taxes, since you wrote that the title is free and clear. I was just wondering if she had forgotten to pay the taxes and if there were any other liens that might be occurred because of nonpayment of construction liens or something similar.
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In Michigan tax foreclosures can occur after 3 years of unpaid taxes.

I've checked tax payments on some of the local houses as we had a lot of foreclosures in my neighborhood, and was surprised to find that some residents have found a way of beating the game. They pay only the winter taxes, which are only a fraction of the summer taxes.

The summer taxes remain unpaid, but the winter taxes are paid, so it appears as though they've avoided foreclosure that way. Or it might be that that's an arrangement they've worked out with the taxing authorities if they can't pay the larger summer taxes.

Your husband could try to make a deal to pay down the taxes in part, depending on how flexible the county treasurer's office is.

And if they're not flexible, follow Pam's advice. A real estate or tax attorney would probably be the most appropriate.

When you did your research, did you find a date for the foreclosure sale of the unpaid taxes? I don't know about any other state but in Michigan a foreclosure sale has to be advertised for a specific time in a local newspaper, typically one of the legal newspapers. Notice has to be posted on the front door. The notice will specify the date of foreclosure.

Worst comes to worst, you could bid against the county for the property, although I've never heard of anyone doing that.

Good luck, and thanks to your MIl for her WWII service.
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