Delinquent property taxes drop in Pitkin County
November 5, 2009
PITKIN COUNTY – Despite a national recession, relatively few Pitkin County property owners have failed to pay their property taxes this year, according to the county treasurer’s office.
The treasurer will conduct a tax lien sale Thursday in Aspen, giving bidders a chance to pay someone else’s delinquent taxes – a strategy that can be a profitable investment and, on rare occasion, give the lien holder an eventual shot at acquiring the deed to a property.
Last year, Pitkin County saw 333 properties go to the sale, according to Tiffany Wancura, chief deputy treasurer and public trustee. This year, the list numbered more than 200 initially, but had been whittled down to roughly 100 properties by midday Wednesday. Owners had until the close of business yesterday to pay their delinquent bill and remove their property from Thursday’s sale.
There are about 14,400 taxable properties in the county.
The sale includes residential, commercial and vacant properties on which 2008 taxes went unpaid in spring 2009. Some of the delinquent bills are for modest amounts – less than $50, while many thousands of dollars are due for other properties.
The sale for properties on which less than $5,000 is owed is done in a round-robin format, Wancura explained. Each bidder is assigned a number, as is each property. Property No. 1 is then offered to bidder No. 1. If it is declined, it is offered to bidder No. 2 and so on. If bidder No. 1 accepts property No. 1, the sale moves to property No. 2 and it is offered first to bidder No. 2.
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Delinquent owners have up to three years following the date of the tax sale to pay whomever bought the tax lien at the auction, paying off the taxes plus 10 percent annual interest – a rate set by the state. The arrangement can make for an attractive investment. The longer it takes an owner to pay, the more interest the investor collects.
Bidders must pay with cash or check Thursday, at the close of the sale, for whatever liens they have purchased.
Tax liens for properties on which more than $5,000 is owed are sold in auction-style open bidding. Bidders do not collect interest for any sum they bid over the amount that’s actually owed, Wancura said. More than a dozen such properties remained on the list as of midday Wednesday.
An investor who pays the delinquent taxes on a piece of property for four years can then request the deed to the property and assume ownership. That rarely occurs, according to Wancura. Property owners generally pay the delinquent taxes before they lose the property, she said.
Last year’s sale attracted 36 bidders.
“It’s usually the same people, but we’ve had a lot of calls this year from interested investors,” she said.
Bidders register from 8 to 9 a.m. at the treasurer’s office. The sale begins at 9 a.m. in the Rio Grande Plaza meeting room.