Property taxes can be confusing to many people. But understanding them will make you a more secure homeowner.
You must pay your property taxes every year. Property taxes are usually split up into two bills that cover six months each. Many people do not realize they are paying property taxes. If you have a mortgage, your bank may be collecting what you owe for taxes each month and holding it “in escrow.” The escrow money is included in your monthly mortgage bill. The bank then pays the bill for you every six months, which makes it easy for people to forget about property taxes. But it’s important to remember them.
If you do not have a mortgage (or have paid off your mortgage), you have to pay your property taxes directly to your County Treasurer. (See the Homestead Exemption article that explains how you can lower your tax bill, if you are over 65 or disabled). It is important to set aside money each month to pay your twice-yearly property tax bills. Some County Treasurers have programs where you can pay your taxes over 12 monthly payments, instead of making larger payments twice per year.
Importantly, the County can take your home from you if you fail to pay your property taxes. This is called a property tax foreclosure. If you get notices that you are behind on your property taxes, start paying as much as you can right away! The longer you wait, the more late fees and additional charges you will owe. The longer you wait, the more at risk you are of losing your home.
You might be able to work out a payment plan if you talk to your County Treasurer:
Ashtabula County--(440) 576-3727
Cuyahoga County-- (216) 443-7420 (Taxpayer Services)
Geauga County-- (440) 279-2000
Lake County-- (440) 350-2516
Lorain County-- (440) 329-5787
Sometimes the county sells an overdue property tax debt to a private company such as Woods Cove or TaxEase. These private companies can also foreclose on your home if you do not pay the old property tax bills that they purchased.
If you are contacted by a private company about your property taxes, you should always check with your County Treasurer before paying a company that claims to own your old taxes. You want to make sure that the private company really does have the right to collect your property tax money. If a private company does own your old tax debt, you should ask that company about a payment plan to pay off the old taxes and avoid foreclosure.
Remember, even if you send money to a private company to pay off old taxes, you are still responsible for paying your current and future property taxes directly to your County Treasurer.
Paying your property taxes on time each year will help you keep your home and avoid foreclosure.
This article was written by Rebecca Maurer and appeared in The Alert: Volume 33, Issue 3. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!