Florida Delinquent Property Taxes

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In Florida, unpaid property taxes can result in additional charges and the possibility of losing your home. Here’s an overview of how delinquent taxes work, what to do if you fail to pay on time, and what to do if you can’t pay your property tax bill.

When are Florida property taxes due?

Florida property taxes are due on March 31st.

There are earlier deadlines when you can pay sooner and receive a discount. In some counties, there is also an installment plan option. Missing the discount deadline or an installment payment doesn’t mean your property taxes are delinquent. You may lose your discount or installment plan eligibility, but your taxes aren’t late unless you don’t pay in full by March 31st.

If you pay in April or May, you will have to pay a late payment penalty in addition to the property taxes you owe.

On or around June 1st, the tax collector holds a tax certificate sale for any property taxes that remain unpaid. Tax certificates are property tax liens.

Once property taxes are delinquent for at least two years, the tax certificate holder can file a tax deed application.

Check with your local property appraiser and tax collector for information specific to your county.

How do tax certificates work?

When a tax certificate is sold, an investor pays the outstanding property taxes on the property. To remove the tax lien, the property owner must pay the taxes, interest, and administrative fees.

A tax certificate is a lien against the property, but it doesn’t entitle the certificate buyer to an ownership interest in the subject property.

From the investor’s perspective, a tax certificate is somewhat similar to investing in a bond.

From the property owner’s perspective, there isn’t much difference from owing taxes directly to the government. It’s just a way for local tax collectors to manage their cash flow.

What if no one buys the tax certificate?

If no one buys a tax certificate, the county will hold it. You will still have to pay interest.

Investors may purchase outstanding certificates held by the county at a later date.

How does the tax deed sale process work?

One important right that tax certificate holders have is to request a property tax lien sale if the property taxes are delinquent by two or more years. This is at the investor’s option, and they may wait longer.

The certificate holder does not have the right to take the deed to the house. Instead, a public auction is held.

The property is sold to the highest bidder in the tax certificate sale auction. The proceeds go to:

  • The tax lien certificate holder to cover what they paid for the certificate plus interest
  • The local government for any administrative charges
  • Paying off a mortgage or other liens on the home
  • The property owner for any remaining amount

One important disadvantage to allowing your home to go to a tax deed sale is that it will often be sold for less than the market value you could receive in a normal real estate sale.

What should you do if you didn’t pay your real estate taxes on time?

If you missed the deadline to pay your property taxes, it’s usually best to pay as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more you’ll have to pay.

In some counties, you may be able to get placed on a payment agreement by contacting your tax collector. Your eligibility may depend on how soon you apply, so don’t wait until you have a tax lien sale or tax auction on your home.

A private loan may also be an option depending on your credit.

What if you know you can’t pay your property taxes?

If you know you can’t pay your property taxes, you may be able to defer them.

With a property tax deferral, property taxes continue to accrue, and you’ll also owe interest. You won’t face a tax certificate sale or auction as long as you continue to qualify for the deferral.

In order to qualify for a Florida Property Tax Deferral, you need to meet one of the following criteria.

  • Household AGI under $10,000
  • Property taxes greater than 5% of your AGI
  • Property taxes greater than 3% of your AGI if age 65+
  • You qualify for a senior exemption

Additionally, the deferred taxes and interest can’t exceed more than 85% of your home’s value. You also can’t owe more than 70% of your home’s value on your mortgage.

You must apply for the deferral by the original property tax deadline (March 31st), or you may not be eligible.

What if you disagree with the property taxes you were charged?

You should generally resolve disputes over your property tax bill well in advance of the payment deadline.

The best option is generally to respond to your TRIM notice in August.

If you didn’t appeal or are still appealing, the easiest option is to pay in full according to your property tax bill and request a refund after your appeal. Otherwise, you may need to reach a payment agreement with your tax collector to avoid your taxes being considered delinquent.

See also: Florida Statues Chapter 197 especially 197.4XX and 197.5XX.

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