Gary H. Smith
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Don’t Lose Your Home Because You Can’t Pay Your Property Taxes

By Gary Smith
10/14/2021
Don’t Lose Your Home Because You Can’t Pay Your Property Taxes

The Cook County Treasurer’s office has scheduled the first property tax sale in two years, to take place in November.

What Is a Tax Sale and How Does it Work?

Per Illinois law, the annual sale of property taxes is usually conducted 13 months after the due date, but the sale was delayed in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Illinois, when a homeowner doesn’t pay their property tax, an overdue amount becomes a lien on the property. That lien exists from the first day of January in the year in which the taxes are levied or until the property is sold in tax sale the following year. Property owners can pay the delinquent taxes and interest to avoid the sale.

The purchase of a property at a tax sale doesn’t buy the title of the home. The property owner will receive a notice of the tax sale. According to Maria Pappas, the Cook County Treasurer, 17,702 tax bills and subsequent notices have been returned to her office by the U.S. Postal Service as non-deliverable.

When a property is sold at a tax sale, the buyer receives a certificate of purchase, which represents the lien on the property. There is about $163.4 million in unpaid 2018 property taxes, due in 2019, owed on 36,000 homes, businesses, and land.

Property owners can try to lower the property taxes in two ways. First, a property owner can object to the assessments to reduce the overall amount of taxes owed on the property. The property owner can either claim the assessment exceeds the property’s taxable value and was assessed incorrectly, or that the assessment is higher than other comparable properties in the area.

Second, the property owner can take advantage of exemptions the property might qualify for, in order to reduce the tax liability. For instance, if the property owner has occupied the home as of Jan. 1 of the tax year in question, they can apply for a Homeowner’s Exemption, which will then automatically renew each year.

For property owners who had previously qualified for the Senior Tax Exemption before it automatically renewed each year in 2020, they can see if their name is on the list of 28,000 seniors who had qualified for the exemption for Tax Year 2017 but didn’t reapply for it for Tax Year 2018.