INVESTORS BEWARE: HOW TO AVOID LOSING YOUR PROPERTY IN A TAX DEED SALE
Many landowners who purchased real property during the years when real estate was the investment of choice are failing to pay the real estate taxes on those properties and are losing them at tax deed sales. Investors may forget about the payment of taxes on these properties and may not receive notice of tax deed sales. This is because notices of past due taxes are often sent to the property address. The property may be vacant land or may be occupied by tenants who do not forward these notices to the owners. Unless the owner provides the real property taxing authorities with an address where the owner is likely to actually receive notice, there is a good possibility the owner ay never know that property taxes are due.
Similarly, notices that the property will be sold at a tax deed sale often are sent to the property address and are not received by the property owner. If a property is sold under these circumstances, it is difficult for a landowner to void the sale. The county selling the property has an obligation to use reasonable efforts to try to locate the landowner to provide notice of the sale; it is not required to take extraordinary measures to try to locate the property owner.
The law regarding tax deed sales has been undergoing a transformation over the past several years. In November 2006, the Florida Supreme Court decided the Rosado Case, a case argued by Sherri DeWitt of the DeWitt law Firm. Vosilla v. Rosado, 944 So. 2d 289 (Fla. 2006). In Rosado, the Florida Supreme Court references a case which had been recently decided by the United States Supreme Court, Jones v Flowers, 126 S. Ct. 1708 (2006). Together, these cases form the framework for analyzing a property owner’s right to notice of a tax deed sale.
One thing is clear as a result of the cases in this area: To avoid losing property at a tax deed sale all property owners should notify the taxing authorities of the address where notices should be sent. This notice should be sent both regular and certified mail and should state that it is being sent both ways. The property owner should keep a copy of the letter and keep a copy of the signed return receipt. Where the property owner has proof of providing such notice, and the taxing authorities fail to send notice to the proper address, the owner has been successful in setting aside the sale of the property. Thus, all investors should make sure that they provide the taxing authorities with an address where they are likely to receive all notices that are sent and should keep proof of proving that address.