Under certain circumstances, the government is authorized to seize certain property, including real property. This issue often comes up in association with criminal offenses and non-payment of taxes, though there can be other circumstances.
The Tax Forfeiture Process occurs as the result of uncollected property taxes. In order to put the process in context between delinquency and forfeiture, the authorized agency begins taking action at the period of time just before forfeiture occurs:
If the property taxes are not paid in the year due, the taxes become delinquent as of January the following year. After notification to the taxpayer of record, upon petition a District Court enters judgment against the property. The unpaid taxes (now in judgment form) operate as a lien against the property. This is not a personal debt of the owner. Judgment is entered as of May in the delinquent year.
The judgment date triggers the “redemption period.” Depending on various circumstances, the period of redemption can be one, three, or five years from the date of judgment. During this period of redemption, the owner (or anyone else having an interest in the property) can pay the delinquent taxes and halt the forfeiture.
Should the taxes remain unpaid after the redemption period, the parcel(s) will forfeit to the State. Once forfeited, title to the parcels is held by the State in trust for the local taxing districts. Counties are only agents of the State and their powers are only those which are prescribed by statute.
The end goal of this process is to return the parcels of tax forfeited land to the property tax rolls as productive taxable property or put them to a public use or purpose. In either case, the responsibility for disposition of forfeited parcels lies with the County Auditor and the County Board, at which point the cycle will have been completed.