How to buy properties at local tax sales


Procedures in city differ from Baltimore county's

March 09, 2003

A reader asks when and where tax sales are held in Baltimore City and county. He wants to know how to buy a property at a tax sale.

Dear reader:

Taxes and other public charges are liens on real property.

When the liens become delinquent, Baltimore City and Maryland counties are authorized to sell the tax liens at public auction to the highest bidder.

The purchaser at a tax sale pays the lien and receives a tax sale certificate.

The owner of the property has six months to redeem the property by reimbursing the purchaser the amount of the liens paid, plus interest.

If redemption does not occur within four months from the date of the tax sale, the tax sale purchaser is entitled to attorney's fees as provided by law.

After six months, the tax sale purchaser can file a complaint in court to foreclose the owner's right of redemption and recover additional expenses.

Foreclosure proceedings on vacant and abandoned properties in Baltimore City must be filed within three months of the date of the certificate of sale.

If the tax sale purchaser files suit and the property is not redeemed by the owner or other interested party, the court will issue a decree foreclosing the rights of record owners and private lien holders and the tax collecting authority will sign a deed conveying the property to the tax sale purchaser.

The tax sale purchaser also must pay all taxes and municipal liens that have accrued from the date of the tax sale together with the balance of the bid price.

The tax sale purchaser does not obtain the legal right to possession until the deed is obtained.

Tax sale procedures in Baltimore City and county differ in several important respects.

At city tax sales, purchasers may have to pay a high bid premium equal to 20 percent of the amount of the bid that exceeds 40 percent of the property's assessed full cash value.

If a property is assessed for $100,000, the 20 percent high bid premium will apply to a bid in excess of $40,000.

The tax sale purchaser receives no interest on the high bid premium, but the premium is refunded in full when and if the property is redeemed or the tax sale purchaser successfully forecloses the owner's rights of redemption. In Baltimore City, the redemption interest rate is 18 percent a year.

The Baltimore City tax sale is scheduled to begin May 12 at the convention center. Bidders must register and pay a refundable $200 registration fee.

For further information, check the city's tax sale Web site at




At Baltimore County tax sales, there is no high bid premium. The redemption interest rate is 12 percent a year. Bidders at the county tax sale must register, but there is no fee. The county's Web site for tax sale information is found at


Purchasing properties at tax sales requires knowledge of the procedures and also knowledge about the properties.

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