Officials seek speedier process in selling property for not paying taxes

State legislators are being urged to speed up the legal process used by local governments to take over and sell property when taxes are not being paid, reports the Commercial Appeal.

The push is led by Shelby County Trustee David Lenoir, county Mayor Mark Luttrell and Memphis Mayor A C Wharton.

The proposal would reduce the redemption period to 30 days for delinquent properties determined to be abandoned. For unoccupied properties, owners who haven’t paid taxes for five to seven years would have 180 days instead of a year to redeem their properties, and those behind on taxes more than seven years would have just 90 days to pay up.

It takes more than three years from the time an owner stops paying taxes before a property becomes eligible for a tax sale. Then, when the county trustee’s office includes the property in a sale, like the one coming up Friday, the delinquent owner still has another year to pay the taxes and redeem it.

Lenoir says about 35,000, or 8 to 10 percent of the total 340,000 parcels in the county, are delinquent by three or more years.

“We don’t have the staff nor the budget to put all those properties in a tax sale,” Lenoir said.

The trustee is quick to point out he’s talking parcels, not dollars: He says 94 to 95 percent of the total property taxes due each year are paid.

The county conducts four tax sales a year.

“In each one, we start with 2,000 properties, and we may have 500 in the actual sale,” Lenoir said.

Properties drop out of the sale as owners pay their tax bills, for instance, or file for bankruptcy.