Whether you have finally paid your mortgage off, you inherited a property from a loved one, or you bought your property in cash, property taxes are your responsibility. These real estate taxes are billed on a quarterly basis which run on a fiscal year beginning on July 1st and ending on June 30th.
The tax title litigation process is governed under M.G.L. c. 59 and 60. When property tax bills are past due, the taxes start accumulating interest at a rate set by state law. When property taxes remain outstanding, the city or town where the property lies will send you a demand letter informing you of the past due taxes. If the taxes remain outstanding, at least two weeks later, the municipality will publish and post notices in public places as an additional means of notification. After another two weeks have passed without payment of the outstanding taxes, the property is “taken,” and the municipality has legal ownership of the property. However, you and any entities with a mortgage or lien against the property hold a “right of redemption,” time to pay the taxes before the property becomes absolutely owned by the municipality. This taking will then get recorded in the local Registry of Deeds and is only released upon payment in full of the outstanding tax delinquencies which also gets recorded at the Registry of Deeds.
If property taxes remain unpaid for six months or more after the tax taking, the municipality will file a Tax Lien Foreclosure Complaint in the Land Court. Once any title issues have been clarified or resolved and all parties with an interest in the property have been properly notified and served, the case will move forward toward completion where either the taxes get paid and the case is withdrawn or the taxes remain unpaid and the Court issues a Final Judgment which will end the Land Court case. Once Final Judgment enters, the municipality has absolute title to your property wiping out any other mortgages or liens on the property.
Once the property becomes city or town owned, the municipality will need to evict anyone who is occupying the property in order to prepare the property for a public auction conducted in accordance with M.G.L. c. 77B. At the auction, the property is sold to the highest bidder who obtains title free of any back taxes or prior liens.