A tax lien attaches to the property at its valuation (January 1st; O.C.G.A. 48-2-56). A tax lien against real property is superior to all other liens. The lien is released by paying the tax charged against it. On December 31st (O.C.G.A. 48-3-3) of each year the Tax Commissioner must issue an execution (FiFa.) against all delinquent taxpayers. Executions direct the levying officer to levy on the property. It is the duty of that person to enforce an execution by either collection or levy and sale.
Tax sales are held each month, generally from April through December. Sales are scheduled on the first Tuesday of any given month on the Courthouse steps at 12:00 Noon or sooner. Notice of the sale is published once a week for four weeks immediately preceding the sale in the legal organ (newspaper) for the county, which is presently The Champion Newspaper. We do not have a mailing list for our tax sales; however, if you are interested in what properties are being sold, you should obtain a copy of The Champion Newspaper. For more information concerning The Champion Newspaper, please visit their website at http://thechampionnewspaper.com/
Tax sale bidding commences with the total of taxes and costs (levy, recording, advertising and commissions) on each parcel, with the property being sold to the highest bidder. If there are no bidders, the County may enter a bid on the property equal to the starting bid.
While the successful bidder receives a tax deed, he has no immediate control over the property. The taxpayer or any other person having a right, title, interest in, or lien upon the property may redeem it at any time within twelve (12) months from the date of the sale by paying the redemption price. The purchaser is not entitled to rents and/or profits arising from the property during the redemption period.
The redemption price is the amount paid for the tax deed at the tax sale plus any taxes subsequently paid by the tax deed purchaser plus 20% of that amount for the first year or fraction of a year elapsing between the date of the sale and the date of redemption. After the first year following the conclusion of the tax sale the tax deed purchaser is entitled to an additional 10% for each subsequent year or fraction of a year until redemption.
Twelve months after the date of the sale the purchaser may begin to forever "bar" or "foreclose" the right of redemption by having proper notice served upon the taxpayer, occupant (if any) and upon all persons having recorded any right, title, interest in, or lien on the property in the county where the property is located in accordance with O.C.G.A. 48-4-45 through 48-4-48. Additional fees may be charged for sheriff's service and advertising 20 days after service of notice. Thus a minimum time of one year and forty-five days elapses between acquisition of a tax deed and the right to physical control of the property.
Even though the purchaser receives defeasible title before the redemption period expires, he or she acquires sufficient interest in the property to make a return on the property after January 1st the following year (if still unredeemed) and also to be liable for taxes due on the property the year in which it is sold and subsequent years until redeemed. Current and prior year tax information is available through the DeKalb County Tax Commissioner website.
A Georgia Supreme Court Decision, [Blizzard v. Moniz, 271 Ga. 50, 518 S.E.2d 407 (1999)] has rendered "ripening by prescription" (O.C.G.A. 48-4-48) inapplicable to tax sale purchases in most cases. The Court determined that actual possession of the property is necessary for a tax deed to convey fee simple title to the property absent the process of barring or foreclosing the right of redemption.
It is important to remember that the worth of a tax title is subject to many factors and that all tax sales are administered under the doctrine of caveat emptor ["Let the buyer beware (or take care)"]; to ensure your rights you should consult a knowledgeable real estate attorney.
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