Although scheduled to begin May 8, 2020, a Cook County Circuit Court judge postponed the Annual Tax Sale of delinquent properties because of the coronavirus, per the emergency motion filed by Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas.
Cook County Treasurer Files Motion
The motion was filed to delay in order to protect the health and safety of Cook County residents. The sale is currently postponed indefinitely, until the court orders it to proceed.
More than 52,000 properties had delinquent taxes and were eligible to be sold to investors, including more than 30,000 homes. More than 23,000 of the properties owe less than $1,000, and about 2,000 are owned by senior citizens.
The estimate of how much would have been collected during the sale is $48 million.
The Treasurer’s Office is required to put delinquent taxes up for auction nine months after taxes are due. This is the first step in a legal process that can end with the loss of property if the taxes are not repaid. When the auction does take place, the Tax Sale will be for homes, businesses, and land with unpaid bills for tax year 2018 (which were originally due in 2019).
At these reverse auctions, the participants are bidding on an interest rate that they would collect on the debt, anywhere from 0 to 18 percent, and the lowest bid wins. The tax buyer then immediately pays all outstanding taxes on the property, starting with the tax year sold and any prior years.
At that point, a tax lien is placed on the property and the homeowner has a certain amount of time to pay the money they owe to the tax buyer. For commercial and industrial properties, the redemption period is six months. For residential properties, the time period is 30 months, but it can be extended to three years at the discretion of the buyer.
Property owners can ensure that their taxes are not sold by paying the property tax bill on time. To lower the tax bill, property owners should make sure they are taking advantage of all property tax exemptions for which the property qualifies.
For instance, senior citizens might qualify for the Senior Freeze Exemption, which allows those 65 and older with an annual household income of $65,000 or less to forgo the regular reassessment increases that occur every three years.