Frequently Asked Tax Foreclosure And Auction Questions

 Q. How can I save my property from Foreclosure? 

A. There are two ways: Either you must pay all delinquent taxes, interest, penalties and fees before the redemption date or, if you are eligible, you may enter into an Installment Agreement with the Tax Enforcement Officer.

 Q. I won't have all the money needed by the deadline. Can I have an extension? 

A. No. All deadlines are firm, extensions are not possible.

 Q. Can I just pay the oldest tax to keep it out of foreclosure? 

A. No. New York State Real Property Tax Law requires that taxes must be redeemed in reverse chronological order. This means that the newest taxes must be paid first. Therefore, all taxes, penalties, interest, and fees must be paid in full or put on an Installment Agreement in order to remove the parcel from the foreclosure list.

 Q. What is an Installment Agreement? 

A. An Installment Agreement allows you to pay off your delinquent taxes over a period of two years. If you qualify, you may enter into an Installment Agreement by paying a 25% down payment of all delinquent taxes, interest, fees and penalties on all properties you own within Jefferson County, excluding the City of Watertown. The balance is paid in eight fairly equal quarterly installments over the next two years. During the life of the Installment Agreement, you must pay all new taxes in full and on time.

 Q. How do I qualify to get on an Installment Agreement? 

A. Any property owner with delinquent taxes qualifies unless they have defaulted on a previous Installment Agreement within the past three years, or have lost property through tax foreclosure during that time.

 Q. Do I have to wait until my property is foreclosed on to get onto an Installment Agreement? 

A. No. You are eligible as long as you are at least 30 days late in paying a property tax.

 Q. I didn't receive my tax bill, why should I have to pay penalty and interest? 

A. It is your responsibility to know when taxes are due. If you do not receive a tax bill, you should call the Town, Village, School District Tax Collector. By law, penalties and interest cannot be waived except by majority vote of the County Legislature.

 Q. I purchased the property a year after the tax became a lien. Why should I have to pay those taxes? 

A. Tax liens follow the property, not the person who owned it. It should have been caught when you bought the property, but that does not alter the fact that the bill is yours.

 Q. If I pay the delinquent taxes on someone else's property, will I automatically own it? 

A. No. The practice of purchasing a "Tax Sale Certificate" ended years ago. Ownership remains with the owner of record no matter who pays the taxes.

 Q. How can I buy a property I saw listed in the paper? 

A. If the taxes remain unpaid, the property will generally be offered by the County at its annual Tax Auction. If you are the high bidder at the auction the property will be yours.

 Q. How can I obtain a list of properties to be offered at the auction? 

A. Visit our auctioneer's website at

 Q. If I buy the property at the auction, does the previous owner have a certain amount of time to reclaim the property? 

A. No. Once the County takes title to the property, the previous owner's interest is extinguished.

 Q. What about liens on the property? 

A. The County makes every effort to identify all interested parties, including mortgage holders and lien holders, by having an abstract company do a search for each of the properties on the proposed foreclosure list. The mortgagees and other interested parties have the opportunity to redeem the property by paying all taxes, penalties, interest and fees. If they fail to do so, their interest is extinguished.

 Q. If I buy a property at the Tax Auction, will I be responsible for any taxes? 

A. All tax liens which predate the Tax Foreclosure are extinguished by the Foreclosure, but by buying at the Auction you are agreeing to pay the School District and Village Taxes (if applicable) for the year in which the Auction is held.

 Q. Will I be responsible for existing water, sewer, or utility bills on a property I buy at the Auction? 

A. We cannot guarantee that you will not be responsible for these bills. You are buying at a Tax Auction, these are some of the risks you take buying tax foreclosed property.

 Q. What are some other risks of buying at a Tax Auction? 

A. The property you buy may be subject to easements, covenants, reserved rights in others, zoning and building code restrictions. Research the property you are interested in carefully before bidding.

 Q. What guarantees do I have from the County that there are no problems with the property I buy at the Tax Auction? 

A. None. All properties are sold in "as is" condition. We pass on to you title in the condition that we obtained it from the previous owner through the foreclosure. You will receive a Quitclaim deed which means that there are no warranties made by the County as seller. We do not survey the property and cannot guarantee its boundaries, size or location.