How does someone in Virginia buy a property for the back owed taxes when owner has abandoned said property?

UPDATED: Jul 3, 2009

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How does someone in Virginia buy a property for the back owed taxes when owner has abandoned said property?

Can a property be purchased by paying the back taxes? Can installment payments be made? When can the person making the payments take possession of said property to clean up the property and begin maintenance or renovation type work?

Asked on July 3, 2009 under Real Estate Law


J.M.A., Member in Good Standing of the Connecticut Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

You may acquire property by paying off the tax liens.  You may need to pay them all at once as opposed to over time.  However, you may be able to get a substantial discount on the taxes that are owed.

Acquisition of these properties that have tax liens on them may be as simple as walking up and paying for the back taxes at the courthouse.  Tax lins are often sold at auction or you can simply by the tax in a lump sum from the city and foreclose out the property to become to the owner.


A Tax Sale is a sale by the County to which back taxes are owed.  There might or might not be a mortgage involved, but the mortgage company is NOT involved in the actual sale.  Many times, however, a representative from the mortgage company will attend the sale and place a bid on the property.

You would be purchasing any property at a tax sale “subject to” any mortgage or other lien of record.  In other words, any mortgage or lien of record would convey WITH the tax sale.

You need to do a lot of homework before bidding on property at a tax sale, and it is your responsibility to do all title research prior to a sale. All research should be done at the county offices where the property is located, and you should make sure you know exactly what you are intending to purchase prior to bidding.

Keep in mind when purchasing property at a tax sale, there is a statutory Right of Redemption period AFTER the tax sale within which the owner can still pay the delinquent taxes, PLUS INTEREST and any penalties and “reclaim” the property.  You are bidding not only on the property, but also the amount of INTEREST you would charge the defaulting owner to reclaim their property during a redemption period.  Ask your County offices for a copy of their guidelines and requirements for their tax sales.

Redemption periods can vary from state to state, and I believe there is also a Federal IRS redemption period of 120 days.  Therefore, during any statutory period of time after purchasing at a tax sale, you would not want to make any monetary improvements to the property that you would not be willing to lose in the event the previous owner paid the delinquent taxes and interest and reclaimed the property.

As an EXAMPLE-ONLY, you can go to the following links which explain tax sales in the counties referenced.  Perhaps you can find a similar link for your County:

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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