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Property Tax Sales and Your Rights
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If you own a home or a piece of land, you must pay property taxes each year. Depending on where you live, you may have to pay both city and county taxes. If you do not pay your taxes, your home or land can be sold at a tax sale.

Before your home is sold at a tax sale, you should receive notice of the date and time of the sale. The notice will also be published in a local newspaper or posted at places within the county or city. To prevent your home or land from being sold, you must pay the taxes owed and any added interest and fees.

If the full amount you owe is not paid, the property will be sold at the sale. Most of the time, a home will be sold for less than it is worth. In many counties and cities, there are people or companies that are in the business of buying properties at tax sales. Most of them buy the property and then resell it for higher prices.

Once the sale occurs, the buyer is the new owner of the home. As the new owner, the buyer can have the Court issue an order that allows law enforcement to remove you from the home. Sometimes, the new owner will rent the home to you, but the rent may be more than you can afford.

You do have the opportunity to get ownership of the home back if you "redeem." If the taxes owed were less than five years past due, you have one year to redeem. To redeem, you must pay the new owner back for the taxes that were paid, the cost of the sale, and interest. If the new owner has paid any other taxes, you must pay those also. The amount to redeem may include other costs. You would pay the money needed to redeem to the office of the Clerk and Master at the Courthouse. The office of the Clerk and Master can provide you with the exact amount needed to redeem and the exact date that your one-year right to redeem expires.

Even if you are unable to come up with the money to redeem and get the property back, there may be money left over from the tax sale after all taxes and other debts are paid. You may be entitled to that money. You can check with the office of the Clerk and Master to see if there is any leftover money that you are entitled to receive.

Sometimes, the new owner will contact you and ask you to "waive," or give up, your one-year right to redeem. Do not waive your one-year right to redeem unless you know it is in your best interest and you do not want to get the property back. You should also check with the office of the Clerk and Master to see if there is any leftover money from the sale that you are entitled to receive. Before waiving your one-year right to redeem, it is best to first speak with a lawyer.

Patricia Jones is an attorney with Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands. She works in the Columbia, Tennessee office and can be reached at or (931) 381-5533 ext. 260. To learn more about Legal Aid, visit