How to Buy Tax Delinquent Land - Who Pays the Taxes?

Anyone with insight on how to purchase land that is delinquent on taxes? Do you ask the seller to clear taxes before they can be paid or do we write that into the contract and pay for back taxes and lien ourselves?

@burgerking089 I’ve always written into the contract that I (as the buyer) will pay off their taxes as part of the deal. That’s a big part of the reason why they’ll be willing to sell at a discount in the first place because they want to wash their hands of the property and just walk away, and I’ll pick up the pieces for them.

If I find that the purchase price + the cost of paying off the taxes (+ any other closing costs) exceeds what I’m willing to pay to acquire the property, then I don’t do the deal.


Agree with Seth 100%. We usually offer to take title subject to delinquent taxes and offer to pay all the closing costs. Easy for the seller to just sign, take their check and beat it. That is usually what they want to do.

@Sean-Markey @retipsterseth Do you just check the county recorder to make sure tax liens have been cleared before sending the check?

@burgerking089 when I’m sending in the deed to get recorded, I’ll also include a check to pay off all the property taxes, so it can all be taken care of in one envelope.


@retipsterseth thank you all!

@retipsterseth I’d call the Tax Collector to ensure both current (no recorded lien) and all past taxes (maybe lien not yet recorded) get paid. Then I would spend the extra buck to send a separate check to redeem direct to the Tax Collector.
I would not save a buck and trust the Recorder staff public servants to get my redemption check to the Tax Collector. Call me a whack job conspiracy theorist if you like.
Here in the Golden State past due taxes are typically not a recorded lien until they are five years past due. With our crazy prices causing crazy assessments, it adds up over five years.

@sean-markey sounds like this might be a market-specific thing. I’ve never had a problem with it, but I can see how it could be an issue if a county has disconnected departments that don’t communicate well (which is indeed the case for many of them, especially the rural ones with terrible systems and very little technology).

Thanks for chiming in!

@retipsterseth I would be more suspicious of the really big ones, like maybe Los Angeles county, where the departments are so big no one knows anyone in another department. Small rural counties like Plumas or Lassen might have the Assessor, Recorder and Tax Collector all in the same room. I guess it could happen anywhere. Depends on the dedication of the public servants. Not sure I would bet big on that.

@sean-markey yeah, that’s a good point. Perhaps it has less to do with the size of the county and more to do with how well their departments work and communicate with each other. Thanks for pointing that out.

@retipsterseth Do you include a note to deliver the tax check to the Treasurer since you are mailing to the Recorder’s office? Seems like a risky situation in some counties.

@suitedconnector yes, that’s what I’ve always done and I’ve never had any issues with it.