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What can happen if you don't pay your property taxes

May 4, 2018
By ERIC FEICHTHALER - Real Estate Law , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Mr. Feichthaler:

I wasn't able to pay our property taxes this year due to a family emergency, and now the tax collector sent me a delinquency notice. I may not be able to pay this for a while, could I lose my home?

- Steven N.

Dear Steven:

For various reasons, thousands of property tax bills in Lee County are unpaid each year. On April 1 of every year, real estate property taxes become delinquent. A 3 percent interest charge is added on that date. If the taxes continue to remain unpaid in June, a tax certificate will be issued. Basically, your unpaid taxes are paid by someone else, in the hopes of a return on their investment. This return comes in the form of interest paid on the tax certificate. The minimum interest you will pay after tax certificate sale is 5 percent, and it could be as high as 18 percent. There are also fees added to pay off the tax certificate.

The good news is, even if the tax certificate sells, you will retain your house for a minimum of two years. At that time, the tax certificate holder has the right to apply for a tax deed. This results, ultimately, in a public auction of the property to pay the property taxes due. Bottom line, while it is always best to pay property taxes as early as possible to save money and avoid tax certificates being sold, this sale will not immediately result in the loss of property. However, you will want to make sure the taxes are paid within two years of the tax certificate sale, or you do risk the potential sale of your property.

Eric P. Feichthaler has lived in Cape Coral for 28 years and graduated from Mariner High School in Cape Coral. After completing law school at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., he returned to Southwest Florida to practice law and raise a family. He served as mayor of Cape Coral from 2005-2008, and continued his service to the community through his chairmanship of the Harney Point Kiwanis Club KidsFest from 2011-2015, which provides a free day of fun and learning to thousands of Cape Coral families, and funds numerous scholarships. He has been married to his wife, Mary, for 14 years, and they have four children together. Recently, he earned his board certification in Real Estate Law from the Florida Bar. He is also a Supreme Court Certified Circuit Civil Mediator.

This article is general in nature and not intended as legal advice to anyone. Individuals should seek legal counsel before acting on any matter of legal rights and obligations.



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