If you go too long without paying property taxes in Milwaukee, you could lose your home in a tax sale. We know this isn’t what anyone wants to go through and understand how devastating it can be to lose a home.
The property acts as collateral when homeowners don’t pay taxes. Under state law, the local government has the right to sell the home to collect delinquent property taxes. Fortunately, this is a lengthy process. There are many ways for you to still save your home from a tax sale or foreclosure.
If you want to salvage your property, you need to understand the process and your options. Continue reading to find out how long you can go without paying property taxes in Milwaukee.
Milwaukee Tax Process
Property tax is calculated based on the value of the property and land. When homeowners pay taxes, that money funds things that benefit the community. For example, you may see your tax dollars invested in road construction, fire and law enforcement services, and water improvements.
It’s essentially the government saying if you want to own property, you have to contribute to the well-being and improvement of the community. If you live in Wisconsin, you know that we have some of the highest property taxes in the country, at a rate of almost 1.7%. Milwaukee, specifically, has some of the highest tax rates in all of Wisconsin, around 2.5%.
The amount of tax you will have to pay will vary based on the value of your property. Wisconsin property tax laws depend on the assessed value of the property and the tax rate. The assessor’s office calculates the yearly rates for the various Milwaukee tax jurisdictions and municipalities.
The City of Milwaukee sends everyone’s tax bill every year around mid-December. You must make the full payment by January 31st, or you have the option of paying half on January 31st and the other half on July 31st.
Taxpayers with an escrow check that totals less than the taxes due must send a check for the difference to the City Treasurer’s mailing address. Make sure you postmark it by January 31st for it to be valid.
If you cannot pay the total amount by the due date, the Milwaukee County Treasurer’s office offers a 10-month installment payment plan. The plan is interest-free, but you must make your first installment on January 31st and then every month after that until you completely pay off the debt.
Length You Can Go Without Paying Property Taxes in Milwaukee
In short, you can go about two years without paying property taxes before the government sells your house to pay the debt. Within those two years, you have the opportunity to pay the property tax bill and redeem the property.
In Wisconsin, the government uses a tax certificate to place a lien on a property. If you are delinquent on your taxes as of August 31st, the City Treasurer will issue a tax certificate on September 1st. Once they have placed the certificate on your property, they will then mail you a notice within 90 days.
Once the treasurer places a tax certificate on your property, they can start the process of trying to get the title of your home. You can do this in several different ways, which we’ll go over below.
Depending on the method Milwaukee County uses to take possession of the title, you might have less than two years to redeem. In some cases, you may only have up to one year.
There are some payment options available under the Wisconsin statutes. For example, if you have real estate taxes over $100, you may qualify for the installment plan mentioned above.
What Happens If You Stop Paying Property Taxes in Milwaukee?
If you stop paying property taxes in Milwaukee, the county board has a few different ways to gain possession of the title to your personal property. The first method is for Milwaukee County to apply for a tax deed and then record the deed. They can do this any time after giving you notice of the tax certificate.
The county can also foreclose on the tax certificate, which is essentially the same process as foreclosing on a regular mortgage. The third way the county can take possession is by filing a petition with the court. This process is called an “in-rem” statutory procedure, where a judge can issue a foreclosure on your property.
You will still have time to redeem – or pay off – the amount owed and keep your house, no matter what method the county uses.
If you note on your property tax bill that you have payments due from the previous tax year, you should pay them as soon as possible before the government imposes a tax levy – or takes the money due.
The Wisconsin State Statutes do allow for installment payment plans for some qualifying tax levy accounts. You learn more about qualifying and enrolling at city.milwaukee.gov.
Can You Lose Your House If You Don’t Pay Property Taxes in Milwaukee?
Under state law, it is possible to lose your house if you don’t pay the delinquent taxes during the redemption period. The amount of time will vary depending on the length of your redemption period, but most are around two years.
You must pay all delinquent taxes, interest, penalties, and any other charges before the redemption period end. If you fail to pay the total amount in time, the ownership will pass to Milwaukee County.
At this point, it is possible to re-purchase the home from the county, but you would have to do it before the sale is made available to the public. However, it is much harder and more expensive to do it this way than it would be to just pay the back taxes and fees.
What to Do If You Can’t Afford Property Taxes in Milwaukee
If you are in a situation where you can’t afford your property taxes, there are a few things you can do to help your predicament.
The first step you can take is to file an appeal for the property’s assessed value. You need to do this right after receiving the tax bill, so this may not be an option if you are currently in default or the redemption period.
By challenging the assessed value, you could effectively lower your tax bill, thus making it easier for you to pay. This process can be tricky, though, and you have to do it correctly for it to work in your favor. You will need to gather documents and evidence to challenge the city assessor’s value on your property. Make sure your proof is thorough and complete for the process to move forward.
Another way to lower your tax bill is to determine if you qualify for any tax relief credits. Wisconsin has income tax credits that can help relieve the amount of real property tax you owe. You need to file your income tax return to see if you qualify for these credits. Additionally, particular loans are available to help you pay real estate taxes.
You may also qualify for some Milwaukee tax exemptions. Abatement programs help people that meet specific requirements. These requirements include the following:
- Being over a certain age
- Having disability status
- Having veteran status
- Certain income level
The next step would be to look into a payment plan. As previously mentioned, state law allows property owners to set up payment plans, but they still require on-time tax collection.
If none of these options work for you, consider selling your property. This option might seem counter-intuitive, but if you end up losing your home due to unpaid real estate taxes, you won’t see a single cent of that money – even if your house is owned free and clear.
Many companies that buy houses in Wisconsin will purchase your home in cash, as-is. This buying process allows the company to completely pay off your unpaid tax debt in the sale, leaving you with the equity you deserve.
It can be stressful falling behind on property tax payments, but understanding the process and general tax information can help ease the burden.
If you are already delinquent on payments and don’t see yourself being able to get caught up, think about selling your home before it’s taken from you. If you’re trying to save your home, the last thing you want to hear is that you should sell it, but it’s better than having the county take it from you, sell it themselves, and leave you with nothing.
We know how stressful this situation can be, but know that you have options and that it’s never too late.