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Delinquent Tax Bill Can Cost You Your Home

5:33 AM, May 18, 2012   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- There 41,000 property owners in Duval County behind on their property taxes. At the end of the month, if they don't pay their bills, the tax collector will put their tax certificate up for sale.

James and Shawna Downs are worried that this will caused them to lose their home; they're behind on their taxes.

"They said you will still be in your house, but this other third party will own a portion of it until you pay off this debt," said Shawna Downs.

The Downs purchased their home during a short sale in 2010; they're first-time homebuyers and now in the process of remodeling it room by room.

"This is our construction zone and we're getting it done," she said.

They pay their taxes and insurance separately from their mortgage. Downs said they will miss the May deadline to pay $2942.92 to the tax collector.

"This is what we have to pay before May 18 -- we can't, we don't have it," she said.

The Downs bought the house for $130,000. This year, it is assessed at $186,000. They don't believe their home appreciated that much in a year, but that's another fight.

The current tax bill is based on that assessment.

"There needs to be a payment plan or some kind of arrangement a homeowner can make in this economy," said Downs.

Sherry Hall of the Tax Collector's office said the city has to collect its taxes, but the Downs are not in jeopardy of having their home sold, not yet.

"No portion of the property will be auctioned off and it won't happen tomorrow," said Hall, "On May 30, we have tax certificate sale that is to make the government whole on the taxes."

Investors buy the tax certificate, paying off the past due taxes so the government can have the fund in its coffers.

Hall said the property owners have up to two years to pay off the past due tax bill plus interest and penalty; that way, investors can make a profit on their purchase.

"They will begin to accrue penalties and interest on a monthly basis," said Hall.

The Downs plan to have it paid, but they were afraid that they were going to lose their home in an auction. The city that is not the case.

Remember earlier we said it was said 'not yet.'  So when can the property owner lose his home?

Hall said if the taxes owed are not paid within the two-year period, the city will sell a tax warranty deed to the property.

The buyer of that warranty deed then becomes the new owner of that property.

Hall said property owners have the option of setting up an installment plan when the notices for the year go out. Once the taxes become delinquent, there's no installment.

The government wants the entire amount. 

First Coast News

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