What Do You Have to Do to Pay off a Tax Certificate on a Home?

By: Karen Rogers

Homes with a tax lien certificate attached are at risk of foreclosure.

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Tax-starved counties can’t afford the luxury of waiting for homeowners to pay their delinquent property taxes. Some states allow county tax collectors to issue tax lien certificates as a way of recouping unpaid property taxes. Each state sets the tax certificate interest rate and redemption period to make them attractive for investors. After the tax certificate is purchased, homeowners who fail to redeem the tax certificate face losing their home should a tax certificate owner start foreclosure proceedings.

Step 1

Find the location of the county that issued the tax certificate. Contact the county tax collector’s office to determine the exact amount of property taxes currently outstanding, along with the payment methods the tax collector accepts. Verify that the total amount includes any additional costs or fees imposed by the county.

Step 2

Pay the outstanding tax amount immediately. The interest on tax certificates accrues monthly, which makes it more expensive to redeem the certificate with each passing month. If you cannot pay the entire amount at once, talk to the tax collector about the payment arrangements that are available.

Step 3

Ask the tax collector if tax certificates have been issued for prior years' taxes on the property. If so, find out for which years a certificate has been issued and the amount due for each certificate.

Step 4

Pay off the certificates, starting with the oldest one first, along with any additional costs and fees. If the county provides an online payment system, you can immediately satisfy the tax lien by paying online at the tax collector’s website. If the county does not have an online payment system, send in the total amount due via certified mail, return receipt requested, as proof of payment.

Step 5

Check back with the tax collector’s office to make sure it received the payment you mailed in. Be sure the payment has been applied to the correct year's tax lien, the tax lien has been released and the tax certificate has been cancelled.

Items you will need

  • Legal address of the property
  • County tax collector contact information


  • Review your property tax account at least monthly if you are unable to pay the amount due in full to ensure that the owner of the tax certificate has not started foreclosure proceedings.
  • States commonly allow property owners one year or longer to pay their property taxes before issuing a tax certificate. Since every state is different, if you have delinquent taxes, check with the tax collector’s office to find out how much time you have before a certificate is issued.
  • Redemption periods vary from state to state. Check to find out how much time remains on the redemption period before the tax certificate owner has the right to start foreclosure proceedings.


  • Depending on the state, foreclosures may be judicial or nonjudicial. Each nonjudicial state has a different way of notifying the homeowner about the foreclosure.
  • Foreclosure law is very complex; you may want to enlist the aid of an attorney if you are facing foreclosure.

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About the Author

Based in St. Petersburg, Fla., Karen Rogers covers the financial markets for several online publications. She received a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of South Florida.

Photo Credits

  • Ablestock.com/AbleStock.com/Getty Images

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