In Baltimore City, a house may be placed in tax sale if you are delinquent $750 in property taxes (or other municipal liens, including water bills). In other counties, a homeowner can have their home placed in a tax sale for as little as $250 in delinquent property taxes. This article describes the process, what you can do to get your property back, and where to get help.
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This section describes the timeline for Baltimore City. Other counties in Maryland follow a similar timeline.
- February: A final notice listing all delinquent taxes and charges will be mailed to the property owner. The notice is titled Final Bill and Legal Notice.
- March: A complete list of property eligible for the tax sale will be published twice in two newspapers of general circulation.
- April: A second notice of tax sale is sent to the property owner.
- Payment must be made by April 30 to avoid the tax sale.
- The amount of taxes or other municipal liens (like environmental control citations) is called a certificate
- May: The tax sale typically occurs in the 3rd week of May.
- After the tax sale, the property owner can redeem the certificate from the tax sale bidder.
Note: In Baltimore City, the property cannot be included in a tax sale if the only municipal lien is an unpaid water bill. This exemption does not apply to other counties.
Note: Check if your county withholds tax sales for low-income homeowners at least 65 years old or disabled. If so, the county may have additional eligibility criteria.
The right of redemption allows you to get your home back. To redeem the property, the owner must pay to the certificate holder:
- the total lien amount paid at the tax sale with interest (interest ranges from 6-18% depending on the county where you live)
- any taxes, interest, and penalties paid by the certificate holder
- any taxes, interest, and penalties accruing after the date of the tax sale
- for example, if a tax sale occurred for 2020, and you redeem the property after July 1, 2021, you must pay the tax assessment for 2021 to redeem
- any expenses or fees of the certificate holder allowed by law
- A collector must attempt to contact the certificate holder if the holder has not provided a list of expenses that should be included in the redemption amount. If the certificate holder fails to respond within 5 business days, the collector may redeem the property without an indication that the expenses have been paid.
The tax certificate can be redeemed by the owner or another interested person (like a mortgage holder). Because of the interest charges, the longer you wait to redeem, the more you will have to pay. To find the interest rate for your county, visit the County Codes page on the Thurgood Marshall State Law Library site.
Foreclosing the Right of Redemption
If you do not redeem the property, the tax certificate holder can file a lawsuit to take ownership of the property. The lawsuit is called foreclosing the right of redemption. The lawsuit can be filed any time after 6 months (9 months in Baltimore City). Two notices must be sent: 60 days prior to filing and 30 days prior to filing the lawsuit. The law includes a detailed list of disclosures and statements that must be contained in the notices.
Before filing a complaint to foreclose the right of redemption, the current payoff amount to redeem the property may be requested by the property owner, the mortgage lender or servicer, or the assignee of the mortgage. The payoff amount provided must be valid for 30 days and may include expenses incurred by the certificate holder.
Read the Law: Md. Code, Tax-Property § 14-833
- Call your county government and inquire if any programs can assist you.
- For Baltimore City residents
- If you have received an incorrect water bill, contact the Department of Public Works and request an information conference.
- If you have had a water leak, contact the Department of Public Works and request a credit.
- If you are a Baltimore City resident, 65 or older, and have a maximum income of $25,000, you can qualify for a Low Income Senior Citizens Water Discount, which may reduce your water bill by 35%.
- For any billing issues, including obtaining credits, call the Department at 410-396-5398.
- If you have issues paying your electric bill (which does not trigger a tax sale), you can apply for energy assistance. Call BGE at 1-800-685-0123 or contact the Office of Home Energy Programs at 1-800-352-1446 (Baltimore City residents should call 410-396-5555). Grants can help with past-due amounts and future payments.
- Apply for the Homeowner’s Property Tax Credit through the Maryland Department of Assessment and Taxation. The tax credit is based on income, and you need to apply every year for the credit. Applications are due September 1 of every year. Call Tax Credits Telephone Service at 410-767-4433.
- Apply for the Homestead Tax Credit. The Homestead Credit limits the increase in taxable assessments each year to a fixed percentage. Every county and municipality in Maryland is required to limit taxable assessment increases to 10% or less each year. All homeowners must submit a one-time application to establish eligibility for the credit. For questions about the homestead tax credit, call 410-767-2165.
- Call your county government and inquire if any programs can assist you.
- For Baltimore City residents - if you require housing repairs to help address high water bills, energy efficiency issues, or other housing-related problems, call the Baltimore City Housing Department's LIGHT Program at 410-396-3023. LIGHT intake staff will talk with you about your home repair needs and help connect you to any eligible programs and resources.
Tax Sale Loan
- For Baltimore City residents - Neighborhood Housing Services has a tax sale loan program. Generally, you must have a stable source of income, owe no more than $1,500 in delinquent taxes or water bills, and have no current bankruptcy or liens against the property. NHS may be able to loan you the funds with a 2 year repayment plan. Contact NHS at 410-327-1200.
- If your home has already gone to tax sale, or if you need assistance resolving issues with a City department, you may want to seek legal assistance.
Office of the Tax Sale Ombudsman
- The Office of the Tax Sale Ombudsman assists eligible homeowners with understanding the process for collection of delinquent taxes, applying for tax credits, discount programs, and other public benefits. The Office can also refer eligible homeowners to legal services, housing counseling, and other social services.
- Homeowner Protection Program (HPP)
- the State Tax Sale Ombudsman administers HPP. If you are a homeowner of limited income, you may qualify for the HPP, which could keep your home out of tax sale for at least three years. The HPP can also help you pay your taxes and keep your home.
- To be eligible to apply for HPP:
- The property must be your principal residence, and
- The assessed value must not exceed $300,000.
- Your combined annual income must not exceed $60,000, and the total value of your assets must not exceed $200,000 (not including the property's value).
- Priority HPP enrollment is given to homeowners over 60, to individuals receiving disability benefits, or individuals who have resided in their homes for 10 years or more.
Check out their website for information about the tax sale process and available services and programs. The site also provides access to County-Specific Information and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). You can email them for assistance at SDAT.TaxSale@Maryland.gov or call them at 410-767-4994.
Note: Your county may have a local tax sale ombudsman. Contact your County Finance Office.