EDMOND — EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a weekly series of columns written by attorneys at Lester, Loving & Davies law firm in Edmond.
Q: I received notice that the county is going to sell my house at tax sale. Can they do this? Can I stop it?
A: Yes. The county can sell your real estate if you don’t pay the ad valorem tax assessed against it. And yes, there are ways for you to save your property from the sale, but you must ask quickly.
If the property tax on your home has been unpaid for three years or more, the county treasurer can — and will — offer your house for sale to the public. Tax sales are, by law, held at the county courthouse on the second Monday in June of each year, beginning at 9 a.m. The sales are in the form of public auctions, with each property going to the highest bidder. The winning bid must be at least two-thirds of the most current assessed value of the property, or 100 percent of the overdue tax plus penalty, interest and cost, whichever is less.
There are mechanisms to either stop the sale or reverse it after it happens. You may stop your property from being sold at auction by paying the county treasurer the amount of tax that is due, plus the penalty, interest and cost before the sale. Doing so will remove the property from the sale. In addition, you may redeem your property by paying the tax, penalty, interest and cost after the sale at any time before the county treasurer issues a deed to the buyer. Once the deed is issued, however, you have no automatic right to redeem the property, and your ability to set aside the sale is greatly diminished.
After the county treasurer executes the tax deed, the only way you can attempt to save your home is by filing a lawsuit asking a court to set aside the sale. In order to prevail, however, you will have to show that the sale was not conducted according to law. This can be exceptionally difficult. Relevant claims might be that the county failed to notify you as required by law, or that the sale violated your due process rights in some way. For most property owners, a suit to set aside the sale can only be filed within 12 months of the date the deed is executed. Minors and legally incapacitated adults can file suit within one year of removal of their legal incapacity.