Category Archives: Tax Liens in California

Tax Liens in California – Tax-Defaulted Land Sales

According to the California State Controller’s office, “[p]roperty becomes tax-defaulted land if property taxes remain unpaid at 12:01 a.m. on July 1st.  Property that is tax-defaulted after five years (or three years in the case of property also subject to a nuisance abatement lien) becomes subject to the county tax collector’s power to sell that property in order to satisfy the defaulted property taxes. The county tax collector must attempt to sell the property within four years of becoming subject to sale.

So, in essence, the property could have been in default for 9 years before it goes up for sale.  With California municipalities begging for money, the need to sell these sooner, as allowed by statute, rather than later, is pressing more than ever.  However, certain political forces are at work to slow these down, which would be a wreck for cash-strapped municipalities.

Note that the sale is conducted by counties and not by the State of California.  This makes sense because county tax assessors and clerk/recorders are the ones responsible for the property rolls of each county.  This is not a function of the State.

The California State Controller’s office indicates that the county tax collector may offer the property for sale at public auction, a sealed bid sale, or a negotiated sale to a public agency or qualified nonprofit organization.

However, public auctions are the most common way of selling tax-defaulted property.  The auction is conducted by the county tax collector, and the property is sold to the highest bidder states the California State Controller’s office.

Pursuant to California Revenue and Taxation Code section 3700.5, the county tax collectors are required to notify the State Controller’s Office “not less than 45 days nor more than 120 days before the proposed sale.”

If you are seeking legal counsel about buying and perfecting tax liens in California, please contact Ballard Law Practice at (888) 838-1991.