Property Owners Have Two Years to Redeem Bought Taxes, Pappas Says
Cook County property owners whose delinquent taxes were bought at this year's Annual Tax Sale have two years to pay back the tax buyers in a process overseen by the courts, Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas said today.
"If your taxes were sold, you still own your property," Pappas said. "But if you do not pay back in two years, the tax buyer can ask for title to your property and the judge may have to grant that demand - provided you have received the proper legal notices."
The Cook County Annual Tax Sale is an auction of unpaid taxes that the Treasurer's Office conducts, by state law.
This year's Sale of delinquent taxes from 2004 (tax year 2003) began July 6 with some 31,000 Property Index Numbers (PINs). When the Sale ended July 27, some 16,000 PINs had been sold to tax buyers, bringing $47 million in revenues for 1,600 taxing agencies across Cook County.
"It is fair that previously unpaid taxes can go to local governments for their intended use - schools, police and fire, infrastructure and other important community purposes," Pappas said.
"But the property owners also must be treated fairly because their homes are at stake," Pappas said. "They must receive legal notice about the sold taxes and a judge protects their rights."
An owner whose delinquent taxes were bought still owns the property. But if he or she does not redeem in two years - pay back with interest and penalties - the tax buyer can ask a court for title to the property.
Before a court hearing is held, the property owner must receive seven separate notices:
1) A certified or registered letter from the Cook County Clerk's Office that the tax buyer has filed a "take notice" of intent to seek title to the property. This notice sets a hearing date in Cook County Circuit Court by which time the owner no longer will be able to redeem.
2) A personally served notice from the Cook County Sheriff's Office advising that the tax buyer has asked the court for the deed to the property.
3, 4, 5) Three notices in a community newspaper by the tax buyer of intent to acquire the deed.
6) A certified or registered letter from the Cook County Circuit Court Clerk that the tax buyer has filed a notice of expiration of redemption (the period in which the owner could have redeemed).
7) Publication by the tax buyer in a community newspaper of the buyer's petition to the court for the deed.
If the court hearing is held, the judge must have proof that the above requirements to notify the owner were met even if the taxes were not redeemed. If not, the judge can refuse the tax buyer's request to acquire title to the property. Also, the buyer voluntarily can give the owner another year in which to redeem.