The procedure to submit an application for a tax deed is controlled by statute and is a fluid, but structured process. Pursuant to Fla. Stat. §197.502(1), the holder of a tax certificate may, at any time after two (2) years have elapsed since April 1 of the year of issuance of the tax certificate, file the certificate and application for tax deed with the tax collector. Accordingly, the earliest possible date that a tax deed sale could take place, assuming worst case scenario for the land owner, is May 1 of any given year (assuming the tax certificate has been outstanding two (2) years). However, the potential for this occurring is very low. A tax deed sale cannot take place until thirty (30) days after the first notice is first published in a newspaper (Fla. Stat. §197.512(1)), and the absolute earliest date that notice of the sale could be published in a newspaper is April 1. See Fla. Stat. §197.502.
The last reasonable opportunity to redeem a tax certificate is on the day of the tax deed sale at any time preceding the actual sale. Pursuant to Florida law, a tax certificate can be redeemed at any time prior to the tax deed being issued unless full payment for the tax deed is made to the clerk of courts. Fla. Stat. §197.472(1). A tax deed is not issued until full payment is received by the clerk’s office from the successful bidder at the tax deed sale, and the successful bidder is required to submit full payment within 24 hours of the completion of the sale. Fla. Stat. §197.542. Please note, the successful bidder is not required to wait 24 hours after the completion of a tax deed sale to make full payment to the clerk. If full payment is not received by the clerk of courts within 24 hours of the sale, the Clerk is required to cancel all bids and re-advertise the sale of the property. Id. at (2).
Application For Tax Deeds
Fla. Stat. §197.502 (2016) sets forth the procedure that must be followed to obtain a tax deed. Fla. Stat. §197.502 provides, in pertinent part:
The holder of a tax certificate at any time after 2 years have elapsed since April 1 of the year of issuance of the tax certificate and before the cancellation of the certificate, may file the certificate and an application for a tax deed with the tax collector of the county where the property described in the certificate is located.
Fla. Stat. §197.502(1). Please note, the procedure to make an application for a tax deed is slightly different if the holder of the tax certificate is a county. See Rule 12D-13.060(2)-(3), F.A.C. The certificate holder, other than a county, who makes the application must pay the tax collector, at the time of application, the tax deed application fee, all amounts required for redemption, plus interest, any omitted taxes, any delinquent taxes, plus interest, covering the Property. Fla. Stat. 197.502(2). If the certificate holder is a county, it must only pay the tax deed application fee. Id. at (3).
Once the tax collector receives the tax deed application, as well as the requisite payments and fees, the tax collector delivers to the clerk of the circuit court where the property is located, a statement setting forth that the necessary payments have been received and also identifying the necessary people/entities that must be notified prior to the sale of the property. See id. at (4). The list of persons who must be notified prior to the sale of the property includes, but is not limited to, (i) any legal titleholder of record if the address of the owner(s) appears on the record of conveyance of the property to the owner; (ii) holder of any lien of record recorded against the property; (iii) any mortgagee of record, if an address appears on the recorded mortgage; (iv) any vendee of a recorded contract for deed, if an address appears on the recorded contract; (v) any other lienholder who has applied to the tax collector to receive notice if any address is supplied to the tax collector; and (vi) any person to whom the property was assessed on the tax roll for the year in which the property was last assessed. Id. at (4)(a)-(h).
Upon receipt of an application for tax deed, and after the proper charges have been paid, the clerk of circuit court is required to publish a notice, once a week for four (4) consecutive weeks in a newspaper, that an application for a tax deed has been made. Fla. Stat. §197.512(1). Importantly, no tax deed sale can be held until thirty (30) days after the first publication of the notice. Id. As a result, the absolute first possible day that a tax deed sale could take place, assuming worst case scenario for the property owner, is May 1 of any given year. Please note, this date is assuming the application for tax deed is received and processed on April 1 by the tax collector, who then delivers the requisite statement to the clerk of courts on the same day, who then provides the necessary information to the newspaper to permit the notice to be published on the same day (i.e. April 1). This is highly unlikely, but represents the worst case scenario.
In addition to the notification required by Fla. Stat. §197.502(4), Florida law also requires that the clerk of the circuit court also notify by certified mail, return receipt requested, the persons listed in the tax collector’s statements that an application for tax deed has been made. Fla. Stat. §197.522. The clerk is required to mail the notice at least twenty (20) days prior to the date of sale. Id. at (1)(a). Moreover, in addition to mailing notice, the sheriff of the county in which the legal titleholder of the property at issue resides must, at least twenty (20) days prior to the date of sale, serve the notice of tax deed application in conformance with Chapter 48, Florida Statutes. Id. at (2)(a). If the sheriff is unable to serve the legal titleholder in conformance with Chapter 48, the sheriff is required to post a copy of the notice in a conspicuous place at the legal titleholder’s last known address. Id. If the legal titleholder does not reside in the county in which the property is located, a copy of such notice must be posted in a conspicuous place on the property by the sheriff. Id.
Redemption Of A Tax Certificate
Pursuant to Florida law, any person may redeem a tax certificate at any time after the tax certificate is issued unless full payment for a tax deed is made to the clerk of the court. Fla. Stat. §197.472(1). In order to redeem a tax certificate, the person redeeming must pay the tax collector the fact amount of the certificate plus all interest, costs and charges. Id.
Importantly, the time in which a tax deed will “issue” is not a set, exact time. Instead, a tax deed shall be issued and recorded by the clerk of the circuit court upon payment of all amounts required by statute after a tax deed sale (i.e. the final bid, the documentary stamp tax, and recording fees), and such a payment must be paid within 24 hours of the sale. Fla. Stat. §197.542. Also, importantly, the successful bidder is not required to wait 24 hours to make full payment, but, instead, the 24 hour period acts as a deadline to make the full payment.
Accordingly, the last reasonable opportunity to redeem a tax certificate is on the day of the tax deed sale at any time preceding the actual sale. This avoids the potential that the successful bidder makes full payment before the clerk processes the landowner’s redemption payment.
To learn more about tax certificates, contact Charles Whittington at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 239-514-1000.
Charles Whittington is a shareholder with Grant Fridkin Pearson, P.A. and has practiced in Southwest Florida since 2011. Charles is a member of the Firm’s Real Estate and Business law practice groups and focuses his practice on commercial and residential real estate transactions and business transactions and relationships. He also represents financial institutions and borrowers in all aspects of business and real estate financing.