Tax Sale Redemptions


Some of you still don’t believe me. There are TWO redemption periods after a tax sale. The first one is called “administrative redemption.” The owner has 3 years after the tax sale to get an administrative redemption. It’s called “administrative” because the owner does it through the Probate Judge or Revenue Commissioner of the county where the property is located.  Just about everybody knows about this redemption time period.

The second kind is called a “judicial redemption.” That doesn’t mean you have to go to court to get it done. Often people end up in court, but that’s not a requirement. A more correct name might be “possession redemption.”  This redemption right MIGHT exist even after the first three years has expired. The owner handles it with the investor, directly.

The time period for judicial redemption is three years AFTER the tax sale purchaser goes into possession of the property. If the purchaser goes into possession as soon as it gets the tax certificate, then the judicial redemption period and the administrative redemption period will expire at the same time.   If the property is vacant or occupied at the time of the tax sale (it doesn’t matter which), but the purchaser does not take possession until one year after the tax sale, then the judicial redemption period will expire three years later. That works out to FOUR years after the tax sale.

If the purchaser gets a tax deed 3 years after the tax sale, never sets foot on the property for another 10 years, then goes into possession for 2 years and 11 months, the owner STILL has the right to redeem for another month. The only exception I found was one case where nobody was in possession and the owner waited 20 years to try to redeem. The court said there was no particular time limit rule, but it was just too long to wait 20 years before trying to redeem.

To repeat, the three-year judicial redemption clock does not start ticking down until the investor takes possession of the property AND the owner is NOT in possession. In other words, if you are both on the property, that doesn’t count.  If the property is vacant, that doesn’t count.

For the lawyers who think this surely can’t be the law, here it is:  “The purpose of § 40-10-83 is to preserve the right of redemption without a time limit, if the owner of the land seeking to redeem has retained possession. This possession may be constructive or scrambling, and, where there is no real occupancy of the land, constructive possession follows the title of the original owner and can only be cut off by the adverse possession of the tax purchaser.” Tensaw Land and Timber Co. v. Rivers, 244 Ala. 657, 15 So. 2d 411 (1943); O’Connor v. Rabren, 373 So.2d 302 (Ala. 1979); Rabren v. Osmon, 613 So.2d 390, 391 (Ala. 1993) Ervin v. Amerigas Propane, Inc., 674 So. 2d 543 (Ala. Civ. App. 1995)  Note from Denise: “Scrambling possession” means you are both “fighting” or “scrambling” over possession. You are both engaged in acts of possession.  If nobody at all is in possession, then the law considers the person who didn’t pay his taxes as being in possession.