You need an experienced lawyer

December 25, 2005|By JONATHAN AZRAEL

I purchased a tax lien certificate from Anne Arundel County on June 7. Since six months have elapsed, I understand that I can now start the foreclosure process. If I start now, how long does it take to get the deed in my name? How does the process work? Do I need to hire an attorney or can I file the necessary documents myself?

When a property owner fails to pay real estate taxes or other governmental liens on his property, the taxing jurisdiction auctions the property at a tax sale. Members of the public can bid on the property. The high bidder pays the amount of the tax lien at the time of the sale and receives a tax sale certificate. The tax sale certificate does not give the bidder title to the property. Obtaining legal title involves filing a complaint in the Circuit Court where the property is located.

The purchaser of a tax sale certificate has a right to file a court action to foreclose the rights of the owner and all lien holders after six months from the date of the tax sale. The tax sale certificate is void unless a proceeding to foreclose these rights is filed within two years of the date of sale. At any time prior to the entry of a final judgment, any interested party may redeem the property from tax sale by paying the certificate holder the amount of taxes paid at the tax sale, plus interest, attorneys' fees and costs. If the property is not redeemed, the certificate holder can acquire a deed from the tax collector, granting him title to the property. The procedures are detailed in 37 pages, published in Sections 14-833 through 14-4-848 of the Real Property Article of the Maryland Code.

You should employ an experienced attorney to file the proceeding to foreclose the rights of redemption. All persons having an ownership interest in the property or having a recorded lien must be joined as parties and served with a summons and complaint. Efforts must be made to locate parties whose addresses are unknown. Failure to follow the proper procedures may delay obtaining a deed, or may invalidate the proceeding.

Once all necessary parties have been joined and served in the proceeding, they have a final chance to redeem the property by paying the back taxes, interest and expenses. If they do not, you can obtain the deed. You must also pay any taxes or governmental liens that have become due after the date of the tax sale. If your bid at the tax sale was more than the taxes due, you also must pay the difference.

Obtaining title to property through a tax sale is tricky and entails some risk.

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