One of the responsibilities homeowners have is that they must pay taxes on their property. Most homeowners expect to receive a bill from the county in which they live, and not a private company. Unfortunately, some homeowners in Florida have learned the hard way that this is not always the case. Some even fear losing their home just because they did not pay attention to their mail. It sounds impossible, but sadly, it is true.
It has become more common in Florida today for tax commissioners in certain counties to sell a tax lien on a home to a private company. One of those private companies that commonly purchases these tax liens is Investa Services. When homeowners receive their invoice for property taxes from this asset finance company, they think it is junk mail and may not even open it before throwing it in the garbage.
It is then sometimes too late when they learn they are facing foreclosure due to unpaid taxes. If you are a homeowner, it is important to understand how third parties purchase tax liens, and what their legal obligations are, before foreclosing on a home.
Legal Obligations of Third Parties that Purchase Tax Debt
County tax commissioners sometimes sell property tax liens because they can sell liens for the entire amount of the debt, unlike third parties that purchase other types of debt. While these third parties can foreclose on a home due to unpaid taxes, there are certain steps they must take first. The third party must notify the homeowner within 60 days of assuming the property tax debt, so you should always know of the company that holds the debt.
Third parties must also wait 24 full months before foreclosing on a home due to unpaid taxes. This is another reason some tax commissioners believe they are actually helping homeowners by selling their tax lien because it gives the homeowner two full years to pay the debt.
Unfortunately, the parties that purchase tax liens are not always honest and they do not always comply with the law. Investa Services, particularly, has an ‘F’ rating with the Better Business Bureau with nine complaints filed against the company within the past three years. It is also very difficult to hold these companies accountable when they violate the law. However, when these third parties have not complied with the law and they threaten to foreclose on a property, the violation can serve as a foreclosure defense.
How to Save a Home from Foreclosure Due to Unpaid Taxes
Facing foreclosure due to unpaid taxes may seem like a hopeless situation, but it is not. Of course, you can simply pay the delinquent amount, but this is not always practical for some people. For example, homeowners have refuted the amount they owe, which is the basis for some complaints against Investa Services specifically. In these cases, there are other ways to keep your home without paying the amount the third party is claiming is due.
In Florida, you can dispute the assessment with the property appraiser’s office or you can file a petition with the county value adjustment board (VAB) to appeal the property appraiser’s assessment, or both. This will reduce the amount of taxes you owe and may make the debt more manageable, which can help you avoid foreclosure. When trying to reduce your tax liability, you can argue that the assessment is greater than the property’s taxable value, which means the value of the property has been wrongly assessed. You can also point to comparable properties with lower assessments, which can help prove that the assessment is too high.
Florida also has many property tax exemptions that can help reduce a homeowner’s liability. Sometimes, a person’s income level, personal status, such as the surviving spouse of a police officer, and even a person’s age can allow them to take advantage of an exemption that can lower the amount of property taxes they owe. Sometimes, a county may even defer taxes in certain situations, such as when a person can show that they have experienced great financial hardship. However, these types of deferrals are not usually available once the taxes are delinquent.
In other cases, a homeowner may simply be able to negotiate paying a lower amount with the taxing authority. Sometimes, the agencies that collect the taxes waive the interest and penalties that can make a tax loan more manageable.
Homeowners can also redeem their property after the tax lien sale. To do this, you will have to pay off the amount owed, but you only have a certain amount of time to do this. You must redeem the home before the county issues the tax deed to the new owner. Still, this option is not available if the court clerk has already received the full payment for the deed.
Lastly, the defenses available in other foreclosure cases are also sometimes available when foreclosure is a possibility due to unpaid taxes. For example, lenders and servicers must have standing before they can foreclose on a property. That is, they must have the note and have something to lose when the homeowner does not pay their mortgage. Others need to have standing too, such as third parties that purchase tax liens on homes. When they do not, or cannot prove that they have standing, they cannot foreclose on a home.
Our Foreclosure Defense Lawyers in Florida Can Help Save Your Home
If you are in fear of losing your home due to unpaid taxes, or for any other reason, do not fight the foreclosure on your own. At Loan Lawyers, our foreclosure defense attorneys in Fort Lauderdale know the defenses available that can help you stay in your home and we can advise on which one is most applicable in your case. Call us today at 954-807-1361 or fill out our online form to schedule a free consultation with one of our seasoned attorneys so we can review your case.
Loan Lawyers has helped over 5,000 South Florida homeowners and consumers with their debt problems, we have saved over 2,000 homes from foreclosure, eliminated more than $100,000,000 in mortgage principal and consumer debt, and have recovered over $10,000,000 on behalf of our clients due to bank, loan servicer, and debt collector violations. Contact us for a free consultation to see how we may be able to help you.