County anticipates largest delinquent tax sale in at least last decade

In the last four years, the number of Shelby County properties to make it to the courthouse steps for the annual delinquent property tax sale has more than doubled.

This year, that upward trend is expected to continue.

The annual list of Shelby County properties whose owners haven’t paid their 2009 property taxes published for the first time this year in the March 24 Shelby County Reporter. The list will also publish again in today’s paper and next week.

Last week, the 2,748 properties on the list required 10 pages of newsprint to publish.

“The tax sale is the due process of the law to provide a way to collect unpaid taxes and the buyers at the tax sale are purchasing the tax interest in the property. They don’t actually purchase the property,” said Don Armstrong property tax commissioner.

Last year, 987 properties were offered for tax interest sale as a result of delinquent property taxes. That compares with 404 in 2006.

“Last year was the largest tax sale we have in the last 10 years,” Armstrong said. “Based on the information we have, 2010 numbers could increase.”

Property taxes are due on Oct. 1 of each year. However, property owners have until Dec. 31 to pay the taxes without incurring interest or penalties.

“Once the property become delinquent, we do not have any options,” Armstrong said. “The law dictates exactly what we have to do.”

Alabama offers property owners more chances than many states to avoid losing property because of failure to pay taxes, Armstrong said.

After Dec. 31, property owners must pay their taxes in full, including any interesting and penalties, in order to avoid having the property sold at the county’s annual delinquent tax sale.

However, even if the property is one of the ones to make it to the courthouse sale, property owners still have five business days to come in, pay all back taxes and penalties.

After those five days pass and the property is sold for a tax interest, the original property owner has a three-year right of redemption.

“The number of people who are having difficulty paying property taxes seems to be increasing,” Armstrong said.

Fast facts:

Shelby County offered 987 properties for sale because of delinquent taxes in 2009. During the five-day layover, 73 property owners paid, meaning 914 properties actually sold.

In 2005, 491 properties were sold during the county’s annual delinquent property sale.

In 2006, 404 properties were sold at delinquent tax sale

In 2007, 437 properties were sold at delinquent tax sale.

In 2008, 746 properties were sold at delinquent tax sale.

In 2009, 914 properties were sold at delinquent tax sale.