Property taxes and municipal fees can accumulate rapidly in a few years when a homeowner falls behind. Between the taxes, the interest, and attorney fees, the amount can quickly become unmanageable. Fortunately, Chapter 13 Bankruptcy provides an opportunity to square up with these debts over a 3-to-5 year Chapter 13 Plan.
Not paying property taxes is a serious matter. Municipalities and taxing agencies can, and will, get judgments against the homeowner and the property. Once these court judgments have been obtained, the taxing agency is within their rights to sheriff sale the property out from under you to pay the debt. You can absolutely lose your home over property taxes, and I have seen many clients in this danger. This takes many people by surprise, but it is a real possibility.
Chapter 13 bankruptcy can stop these lawsuits in their tracks, and even stop a sheriff sale. The Bankruptcy "automatic stay" under the Bankruptcy Code effectively stops any lawsuit related to property taxes from proceeding. However, the taxing agency will only be permanently stopped from collecting against your home if they are paid in full, with interest, in the Chapter 13 Plan. (If your Chapter 13 plan fails, they can reinstate the lawsuit).
Once again, paying these property taxes through Chapter 13 bankruptcy can occur over a 3-to-5 year period, during which you will receive Court protection from any property tax lawsuits or collections. This is a major advantage, as you are not required to provide all of the money at once. This is often the only way a debtor would be able to keep their property while facing large property tax obligations.
Interest must also be paid to the taxing agencies. This rate ranges from 10% for many local municipalities, to 12% for Allegheny County (NOTE: rates can vary by county and municipality). The ability to spread out payments over the Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan can certainly make re-payment possible.
Finally, it should be noted that Chapter 13 bankruptcy filers will need to keep their ongoing property taxes current. If current taxes are not paid while catching up property taxes in arrears, the debtor will be left in the same position as before filing.
If you are having difficulty catching up on property taxes, contact us to speak with an experienced Pittsburgh Chapter 13 bankruptcy attorney. The initial consultation is always free, and I will be happy to speak with you at length to determine if Chapter 13 bankruptcy is an option.