Once in a while I have a prospective client come in, and they are being sued for property taxes or as they are called, "ad valorem" taxes. Here at my bankruptcy law office in Houston, we see quite a few such folks, as you can imagine. If you are a homeowner or other property owner, you likely have been served with a lawsuit by one of the big property tax collection law firms, and you don't know what to do. If you own personal property that is used in a business, you may have instead or also been sued for "business personal property" taxes.

If you don't do anything, they will eventually get a judgment against you, and the judgment is a court order which will also likely order the sale of your property at auction. If your property has equity in it (value over debts), don't let that happen, obviously. Any time you are served with a lawsuit, I recommend that you immediately hire an attorney to file an answer to the lawsuit, or otherwise deal with it.

Possibly a settlement could be reached, whereby you catch up the delinquent property taxes, or sell the property to pay the taxes. But if you let it go to auction, it likely won't receive the best price- you could lose all of your equity. If you have other debt problems besides the property taxes, or if you just can't reach a reasonable deal with the tax authorities to pay the tax, it is possible to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, to give you up to 60 months to catch up the delinquent taxes, through a court-supervised plan.

While you are in Chapter 13, there is a court-ordered "automatic stay" which prevents your creditors from trying to collect from you, sue you, or taking any of your property, at least without first getting permission from the bankruptcy court. And so long as you do your part, and propose a feasible reorganization plan (with our help) and pay the payments, the court would not give a creditor permission to do anything to you.

I DO NOT recommend that you use these "tax rescue" type services that loan you the money, often on exorbitant terms, high interest rates and costly closing costs. If you have a mortgage company, your mortgage company would prefer to pay the taxes, and then try to reach agreement with you about how to pay the mortgage company back. If that happens, we can use the Chapter 13 to catch up the mortgage company's debt for paying the property taxes.

Whatever you do, don't wait and do nothing. You can consult with my firm at no cost, and we can file a typical Chapter 13 case involving property taxes or mortgage debt for a down payment of as low as $346, so long as you don't own a business, you are a first time filer and the chapter 13 trustee payments can be deducted from your pay through a "wage order." Then the rest of my fee is paid through the trustee, along with your other creditors.

Remember, if you've been sued for property taxes, or if it is looking like that is going to happen, don't wait. If you ignore it, it will only get worse. For an appointment with my office call 713-772-8037 or make an appointment on this website.

2 Comments
In the Houston, Texas area, after a foreclosure if you do not voluntarily move out, the new owner must file an eviction lawsuit against you to compel you to leave. Assuming they can show that there was a valid foreclosure, the Justice court gives them a "writ of possession" or court order that orders a sheriff or constable to put the new owner in possession of the house. If you still don't move, the sheriff or constable shows up and they stack your belongings on the curb. If you don't move them, I assume that either they will be taken by someone or the trash man will take them away. If you've waited this long, I doubt that the new owner has your personal property, sorry.
by J. Thomas Black January 26, 2017 at 09:52 AM
If you get foreclosed on but you left personal property such as furniture, clothes, and other household items behind in the house do you lose them to the successful bidder? I have mot lived in the house for several months leading up to the auction and two months after auction. So can i go back and ask for it if the new owner took the personal property or sold it? The new owner changed the locks after winning the bid, but at that point i had abandoned the house for anout 3 months. Is that legal?
by Nab January 25, 2017 at 08:11 PM
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