Just one missed property tax payment could cost you your home

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – County records show that a Lincoln family lost ownership of their home after they missed their property tax payment.

This could happen to anyone in Nebraska, which is why it’s important to know how the payments work.

“We all get a bill mailed to us in December,” said Joanne McCoy, an agent at Woods Bros Realty. “People that have a mortgage can just set it aside because they know their mortgage company is going to make the payment. But if you own your house outright, it is your responsibility.”

McCoy said she had a client who missed a property tax payment.

Luckily, they caught it early enough to fix the problem.

But if you forget or don’t pay it, it could land you in trouble.

Some companies look through properties with unpaid bills.

“They monitor these, and if they notice that somebody is behind on their taxes, they come in and make that payment,” McCoy said. “And then through the process, after a period of time, if those taxes still haven’t been paid, then they can claim the property.”

In Nebraska, whoever pays your unpaid property tax bill can file a deed to the home if you don’t pay within three years and nine months.

A similar situation happened in Lincoln with a home that was worth $254,300.

County records show that the homeowners missed their property tax payment in 2017 and an investor paid the bill for $3,978.

Last August, the investor claimed the deed to the house, taking ownership of it.

McCoy said homeowners can check with their county treasurer to see if they’re behind on payments.

If you have missed one and someone else paid the bill, she has some advice on what your next steps should be.

“Hire a real estate attorney and see what you can do,” McCoy said. “I think that for a lot of people, what they’re going to have to do if they’re responsible for making their own payments is to put it somewhere in their calendar, tie a string around their finger, whatever they can do to help themselves remember that you have to make sure those payments are made.”

In Lancaster County, you can’t set up automatic payments for property taxes.

McCoy said you can pay the full amount of the bill when you receive it each December, or you can split it.

The first half is due by April 1 of the next year and the second half is due by Aug. 1.

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