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Save Your Residence From Tax Sale

In this challenging real estate market, more and more people are finding themselves with two residences. This may be due to inability to sell the existing property after purchasing a new one. It also can be due to life changes such as downsizing because of health issues, a move to a nursing home, or a death in the family. The result is that one residence is now vacant until it can be sold.

In these situations, the payment of taxes on a property go unpaid. Some common mistakes are for the homeowner to believe that the mortgage lender is paying the taxes or for the homeowner to wait to receive a tax bill. If that bill does not come, the homeowner is not reminded to pay those important property taxes. Unfortunately, those tax bills will not come.

After moving to a new residence, mail forwarding orders expire in just a few weeks. Contrary to common belief, the post office does not usually deliver mail to a vacant property–they will return the mail to sender. So it is very likely that tax bills, late notices, final notices of tax sales and all other legally mandated notices required by the taxing authority are returned to that authority. The taxes can be sold and tax deed issued without a vacant homeowner ever knowing about it. The law holds homeowners responsible to keep current information on their bills. The law also assumes that homeowners know that they are responsible for payment of property taxes. Therefore, not receiving the notices is not a defense to tax sale, unless there was some error or fraud on the part of the taxing authority.

Once the taxes are sold, they can be redeemed, but time limits and additional charges apply. Once the tax deed is requested, there are still ways to save the property, but only a short time is allowed for this. After the tax deed issues to the tax purchaser, the homeowner’s rights are very limited and must be legally asserted immediately to save the property.

How to Save Your Property?
  1. Make sure your tax bill has your current mailing address, especially if it is different from the residence address.
  2. If you haven’t received a tax bill when they are issued, call the county treasurer for a duplicate bill to be sent. Tax bills in Cook County are issued in mid-January for payment by March 1st and in the fall after September for payment within 30 days. In all other Illinois counties, tax bills are issued in May for two payments on June 1st and September 1st.
  3. If you believe your lender is responsible for paying the property taxes, check your monthly statement to see if an amount is being held out for a tax escrow. If it is not, you are responsible to pay your own taxes. Thinking your lender is responsible for the taxes is not a defense to a tax sale.
  4. If you think your taxes may have been sold, contact attorney Vicki M. Gonzalez at Bellas & Wachowski Attorneys at Law 847.823.9030 Ext: 220 or to schedule a consultation. Remember, time limits are critical at every level of tax payment, tax sales and tax deed matters.