More than 50 Tallapoosa County properties were sold to the highest bidder Friday because of delinquent property taxes.
For the last month the Tallapoosa County Revenue Commissioner’s office has been advertising the delinquent properties in hopes the taxes would be paid before Friday’s sales. Many took care of the issue, some waited until the last month and some waited until the last minute before the 10 a.m. Friday sale at the Tallapoosa County Courthouse.
“We had 67 properties that were left (unpaid),” Tallapoosa County Revenue Commissioner Eva Middlebrooks said. “We had around 30 payments in the last two days to take care of some of the other delinquent properties.”
Middlebrooks said a total of $30,929.61 was owed in past-due property taxes prior to the sale. A total of approximately $24 million was collected by the revenue commissioner in property taxes this year.
The tax sale brings up a question of how a property gets there.
Middlebrooks explained property owners are sent a courtesy letter in October detailing what taxes are owed. They then become delinquent Jan. 1 and property owners are sent a certified notice in February and properties with taxes still unpaid are advertised in March. If they are still unpaid they are auctioned off in late April or early May. Opening bids are already determined.
“The opening bid is going to start at taxes owed,” Middlebrooks said.
From there, the bids quickly get evened out moving from $119.42 to $140 to $150 to $160 and so on. In some cases, the properties end up selling for far more than what was owed. The excess money in the sale is not passed on to the current property owner.
“The excess stays with the county until that person has exhausted their three-year redemption period,” Middlebrooks said. “Then after an additional 10 years, it goes to the county general fund.”
Friday’s sale generated an excess.
“We ended up selling 55 properties to individuals for $157,581.91,” Middlebrooks said. “The others go to the state.”
Middlebrooks said those properties sold Friday could still have past-due taxes paid off in the next five days before the properties are awarded to the winning bidder.
Next year the property tax sale could change for the benefit of the delinquent taxpayer.
“You would bid an interest rate,” Middlebrooks said. “You will bid what you will be willing to accept. There will be no excess. If after the three-year redemption period and the taxes are still not paid, you can file a foreclosure through circuit court. It is so the process is more fair to the taxpayer and similar to what other states have done.”
Currently Middlebrooks is waiting on the procedure to be more clear.
“We currently have the option,” Middlebrooks said. “I’m waiting on legislation to smooth things out for it.”