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When Can You Quiet Title After Tax Sale?

I’ve been hearing rumors lately about lawyers telling people they can’t quiet title on their tax sale property until at least 10 years after the auction, 10 years after the tax deed, or never. Take your pick. They are all wrong.

I can’t imagine why anyone would say “never.” That’s just completely not true.

The ten year urban legend comes from lawyers remembering the 10 year number from law school. If there is a boundary line dispute or a title issue, and one party has possessed the property and paid the taxes for 10 years,they can quiet the title. That is because the 10 year statute of limitations has expired.

Tax sales have a special and different rule. It is called the Short Statute of Limitations, because it is only 3 years. So, let’s start with that.

If a tax sale is void, it can be “cured” by 3 years of adverse possession after the tax deed date. That is when someone can quiet the title. That’s similar to the 10 year general rule that lawyers remember from school, but shorter.

If the tax sale is valid, then we have to think about redemption rights, not statutes of limitations.

When will all the redemption rights have expired? Some experts say 3 years after the tax deed, no matter what. An investor can surrender their certificate and get a tax deed three years after the auction. So, those experts think you can quiet title 6 years after the auction.

Some experts say that as long as the investor is exclusively and peaceably in possession on the tax deed date, then all redemption rights are over when the tax deed is issued, and title can be quieted on that date.

All of those opinions are related to something called “judicial redemption rights.” The law is in flux right now for a variety of reasons related to new interpretations of old statutes, and new statutes that might have changed things.

I, personally, would file quiet title as soon as I got my tax deed, assuming I was exclusively and peaceably in possession on that date.

7 thoughts on “When Can You Quiet Title After Tax Sale?

  1. what about the potential of a newborn with a right of redemption – do u have to wait 19 + 1 years to quiet title against them?

  2. While intellectually fun to play with, it rarely happens. Minor children have until they are 19, plus 1 year, to redeem. A GAL would be appointed for them, and would ask for some money in exchange for selling the redemption rights. Problem solved.

  3. I’ve purchased a tax sale property that is adjacent to my own primary residence. I’ve gotten the tax certificate and am waiting to trade it for a tax deed. I’m about halfway through the 3 year period, and suddenly the owner abandons the property. Can I ‘secure’ this now vacant property until I get the tax deed? And if so, what would I tell the former occupant should he show up and demand entry?

    1. By “abandon” do you mean he left and hasn’t been back? That is not legally abandoned unless he also formed the intention in his mind to never return, never try to sell it, never let a relative fix it up and live there, etc etc etc. It is safest to give the written notice to surrender possession, wait six months, and file your ejectment lawsuit. That is safest. If you want to take the risk and you are confident he truly abandoned (in the legal sense of the word) then go ahead and take possession and if he comes back, tell him he will have to redeem if he wants it.

      The problem about someone’s “intention” is that it is really easy for them to lie about it later, and you can’t prove they are lying. If the owner later claims the property was not abandoned, then he can sue you for illegal entry and also not have to pay you for any improvements you made. That’s the risk of guessing wrong.

  4. Thank you very much for your response!!! He’s left and I haven’t seen him in about two months. However, the property has been visited multiple times by people apparently scavenging for free stuff and scrap metal. Makes me nervous being so close to my primary residence. My intention is to own and use said property. I would give written notice by mailing it certified to last known address? Thanks again!

  5. Adam, post it in several places with no trespassing signs and your phone number. Put a sign on the door saying you bought it at the tax auction and if the former owner wants to redeem, they should contact you. They are not technically the former owner, but sometime clarity of message is more important than precise legal terminology. Send the certified letter, and also send it by regular mail. Ask other neighbors if they know what happened to the person. Find out if there are liens against the property. If so, it reinforces the belief that it was abandoned.

  6. Thank you again! It’s such a good feeling to get straightforward knowledge and advise from someone who’s CLEARLY an expert in the field!!

What do you think?