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Delinquent tax properties head for the auction block
by Jalana Robinson
Landmark reporter

It may never be a good idea to let taxes go unpaid, but letting them go for three years until they are put into a delinquent tax sale is even a bigger and more complicated problem than most individuals realize.

Platte County Collector Donna Nash and her staff have been getting ready for the public auction of all lands and lots on which taxes are delinquent in Platte County, which is always held on the fourth Monday in August.

This year's sale will take place in the county commission meeting room located in the Platte County Administration Building, beginning at 10 a.m., on Monday, Aug. 27.

Nash admits that it's the worst part of her job, but it is one way that the state has devised for collecting taxes on real estate.

"It's not a good idea to let it go," said Nash as she refers to individuals who wait hoping that their delinquent taxes will be sold at the auction.

She said that some people think that the process of retrieving their property back after it has been sold will be easier than paying up before- hand.

Nash explained that this is a mistake and gave the following example: If a taxpayer owes $3,000 in delinquent taxes, and two people bid at the auction and drive the price up and it is sold at $20,000, then the taxpayer has a bigger problem than before.

The taxpayer not only owes the $20,000 to reclaim the property, but also owes 10 percent interest and eight percent on the subsequent year's taxes.

"If they didn't have $3,000, where are they going to get the $20,000?" asked Nash.
She did explain that although the taxpayer would owe the whole amount initially, he or she would be able to petition to the treasurer's office to get a big portion of the money back after the $3,000 and all fees had been paid.

The entire delinquent tax process begins with a single notice, and if taxes are still not paid by March of the third year, then the taxpayers are sent a certified letter stating that their property will go up for grabs at a delinquent tax sale in August.

The delinquent tax listings were also published in The Landmark starting in July.
"That's when we get the best response," said Nash, "By that time we've sent out two years of delinquent notices."

She says that sometimes it is difficult to notify the taxpayers if they live in a different county and just own property in Platte County, and it's even more difficult when they are out of state.

Research must be made on the internet or by contacting another county to find the address so the taxpayers can be notified.

Platte County Deputy Collector Sheila Palmer begins her research in January on land and titles that have delinquent taxes, and notifies everyone that has an interest in the property of the upcoming delinquent tax sale.

This year Palmer had about 90 parcels of land to sift through compared to about 100 last year.

"We try to encourage people to do research before they come in and buy," said Palmer. "That way they will know what they are buying and the history of the real estate."

The day of the sale, prospective purchasers will be given an updated list of properties, along with the owners' name and address and the amount of fees.

Before making bids on the property, individuals are required to sign an affidavit stating that they do not owe any back taxes and that they are residents of Missouri. Nash said that if individuals are from outside of Missouri they are not allowed to bid unless they have some type of power of attorney.

Even after a bid has been accepted by a purchaser, that does not mean he or she is a clear owner of the land. Instead the purchaser is an owner of a tax certificate, since they have bought the lien against the property.

After that, the taxpayer, the original owner of the property, has two years to redeem the property by paying all taxes and interest.

If this is done, then the purchaser is reimbursed and the tax certificate is returned.

If the taxpayer does not come forward in two years, then the purchaser may claim a collector's deed on the property. The purchaser then has the responsibility to "quiet" the title by assuming all responsibilities and encumbrances on the lien.

Palmer said that this is done by running the title through circuit court and advertising in the paper to be positive that there are no other lien holders.

Before the land officially trades ownership, the purchaser has to sign an affidavit that the taxpayer was notified and so were all lien holders, and that a title search was conducted.
Nash said that it is a good idea if the purchaser hires someone to do a professional title search.

"If it comes down to a lawsuit and they've filed illegally, they could be in a lot of trouble," she said.

As for the rest of the unsold delinquent tax certificates, Nash says that the mortgage or the lien holder will pay the taxes a lot of times.

If not, the taxes keep accumulating until they are paid said Nash, and they will be up for sale once every five years until they are paid or bought by someone who will pay them.

That means someone may have some hefty taxes to pay since last year only approximately 25 out of 100 delinquent tax properties were sold.

Some parcels are particularly difficult to sell.

Nash said that sometimes they get odd parcels that should have been included in a subdivision but for some reason were left out of a deed.
These pieces of land could include a subdivision sign, drainage ditch or private drive to name a few.

For example, Nash said this year the entrance sign to Valleybrook Subdivision, including the area around it, is up for bids.

If no one purchases it, then it too will accumulate taxes for another five years until the next sale or until someone purchases it, whichever comes first.