In Baltimore City, one missed property tax bill can quickly land a home in a tax sale, forcing homeowners, often low-income and elderly, to come up with thousands of dollars to pay off third-party lienholders or face the loss of their homes. The Baltimore Banner has published an investigation of this system, along with some key takeaways and an illustrated guide.
If you or someone you know is struggling to keep up with tax payments or is facing tax sale, we compiled a list of resources that might help. And if you’d like to get in touch to share your own experience with the tax sale, you can fill out our form.
Apply for tax credits
Tax credits are available to help lower property tax bills. The Homeowner’s Property Tax Credit is a statewide credit available if your household income is less than $60,000 a year. You need to apply every year for the credit. Applications are due Sept. 1 of every year. Call Tax Credits Telephone Service at 410-767-4433.
The Homestead Tax Credit limits the increase in taxable assessments each year to a fixed percentage. Every county and municipality in Maryland is required to limit taxable assessment increases to 10% or less each year. Homeowners must submit a one-time application to establish eligibility for the credit. For questions about the homestead tax credit, call 410-767-2165.
Apply for the Tax Sale Deferral Program
The 2023 Tax Sale will take place on May 15. The last day to pay overdue bills to avoid tax sale is April 28.
You can apply to defer your taxes and be removed from the tax sale through the Tax Sale Deferral Program. However, this program postpones rather than forgives bills, and the property may be vulnerable to the tax sale the next year.
Homeowners who receive a final notice from the city that their property will appear on the tax sale list are eligible to participate in this program if they meet certain criteria. You are eligible for the program if the value of your home is $250,000 or less (You can look up the value of the home by clicking here to visit the State of Maryland SDAT - Real Property Search website), if you’ve lived in the home for at least 15 years as your primary residence, and if your income falls below certain restrictions.
The number of properties removed from tax sale through this program is limited, and applications are reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis, so it is best to apply as early as possible. Applications are accepted Feb. 15 – April 15 each year. The deferral must be applied for every year. You can apply online by clicking here. You may download an application by clicking here. Or you can pick up a paper application on the first floor of the Abel Wolman Building, and the 11th floor of 417 E. Fayette St., Baltimore 21202. For more information regarding the application process, please call the Department of Finance at 410-396 3000 or email the Department of Housing & Community Development by clicking here.
If your tax lien is purchased at tax sale, that doesn’t mean you have to move
Bidders at tax sale only purchase the lien on a property — they don’t purchase the property itself. If you redeem the property at any time prior to foreclosure, you will not have to give up your property.
Pay to ‘redeem’ as quickly as possible
The longer you wait to pay your bill once a “tax certificate” has been sold on your property, the higher the bill becomes as fees and interest charges accumulate. To redeem the property after a tax sale, the homeowner must pay Baltimore City the total amount of the tax lien, along with interest, penalties and additional taxes that become due after the tax sale date.
Once four months have passed since the tax sale, the homeowner must also reimburse the holder of the certificate of sale for expenses and attorneys’ fees, in addition to paying the city. Those attorneys’ fees are capped at $750 before a home goes to foreclosure, but if the lienholder moves to foreclose on the house, those fees can be as high as $2,500.
Seek assistance with redemption costs
The Stop Oppressive Seizures Fund maintains a fund to assist homeowners with costs to redeem their homes. You can request assistance using this form: https://forms.clickup.com/f/12e4ey-460/SE686WKGDEWOLT0V2D
The Homeowners Assistance Fund provides residential mortgage and tax delinquency assistance in the form of grants and loans to Maryland homeowners who have experienced a hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic to avoid loss of residence for eligible homeowners. For more information on qualifications, visit: https://dhcd.maryland.gov/Residents/Pages/HomeownerAssistanceFund.aspx
Talk with a lawyer at a tax sale clinic
You can receive free legal consultation and assistance by attending a tax sale clinic. Four clinics are held in March and April each year at different times in different city locations. Homeowners can call the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland at 443-703-3052 to learn more about the tax sale prevention clinics.
Maryland Legal Aid also hosts free legal clinics and can assist homeowners with tax sale issues and with applications for the Homeowners Assistance Fund. Call 410-951-7750 or apply with online in-take. Details on upcoming legal clinics can be found here.
Speak with a housing counselor
These housing counseling agencies can also assist with tax sale issues.
- Neighborhood Housing Services of Baltimore 410-327-1200
- Southeast CDC 410-342-3234
- St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center 410-366-8550
- Belair-Edison Neighborhoods (410) 485-8422
- Comprehensive Housing Assistance Inc. 410-500-5300
- Consumer Credit Counseling Services 800-642-2227
- Park Heights Renaissance 410-664-4890
- Druid Heights CDC 410-523-1350
- Go Northwest HRC 410--947-0084
Make sure state property records are up to date
To be the legal owner of your home and to be eligible for tax credits and many home improvement programs, your name must be on the deed of your home. The Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service provides free consultations and legal services to secure your name on the deed to your home, to assist in completing wills and health care directives and naming a financial power of attorney, and to navigate the estate administration process. MVLS is hosting a My Home, My Deed, My Legacy (MHMD) Homeowner clinic from 3:00 PM - 7:00 PM on Feb. 28, located at the new Middle Branch Fitness and Wellness Center. Learn more or register for a free homeowner clinic by clicking here, or call 443-451-4066.