Property Tax Liens In Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania is a deed state.
The tax sales are handled on the county level by the tax claim office or the county treasurer. When taxes are delinquent for more than 1 year, the treasurer files a lien on the property.
Once the property is delinquent for 2 years the county will sell it in what is known as an “upset sale”. The upset price, or minimum bid, includes the delinquent taxes, municipal liens, and court costs.
Purchasers of parcels at the upset sale are responsible for all liens on the property (including mortgage and mechanics liens) as well as current taxes and must also pay a realty transfer fee (2% of the assessed value).
The upset sale is usually held in the fall.
Some counties will allow private bids on properties that are not sold in the upset sale. As in the upset sale the purchaser is responsible for all liens on the property.
A “judicial sale” may also be held once a year. It is usually in the spring but may be any time after the upset sale. The judicial sale consists of properties that have not been sold at the upset sale or by private bid.
These properties are sold free and clear of any liens. The purchaser is still responsible for current taxes and the realty transfer fee.
Properties not sold at the judicial sale are placed on a “repository” list. Properties on this list are available for private bid. The minimum bid amount is set by each county and may be much lower than the original “upset price”. Properties on the repository list are conveyed free and 56 clear of all tax and municipal claims, mortgages, and liens.
As in the judicial sale the purchaser is responsible for current taxes and the realty transfer fee.
Consistent with tax deed sales in most other states, the deed is conveyed without clear title to the property. There are no warranties to the title, location or use of the property given in any of these sales. All tax sales are the responsibility of the county’s tax claim bureau. Most of the counties in PA have some information about tax sales available on their website.
Many publish the lists for their tax sales online.
The larger PA counties also have assessment data available online. For the smaller counties you will have to go to the assessment department to research the properties and the mapping department to find their location as no address is given on the sale list.
You may also want to search the property records for any liens that the tax claim office might have missed in their search, since you can be responsible to pay any lien holders that were not properly notified of the sale.
For this you will need to go to the county prothonotory’s office.
Although I have heard that the city of Philadelphia sells tax liens, I have found that this is not true. The cities of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have what is referred to as “tax lien sales,” but they are actually selling deeds to satisfy tax liens levied by the city. The city of Pittsburgh actually sells redeemable deeds with a 90-day redemption period and a 15% penalty. Philadelphia tax sales are usually conducted by a law firm and may be held as often as once a month. The Philadelphia tax sales are conducted by the law firm of Linebarger, Goggan, Blair and Sampson, LLP and you can find information about them at http://www.publicans.com/. In addition to redeemable deed sales, in 2014 the city of Philadelphia had their first online tax lien sale. This sale is now conducted annually on www.RealAuction.com.