PITTSBURGH (NewsRadio 1020 KDKA) – A Beaver woman has been fighting the sheriff sale of her home, which was auctioned off due to an overdue tax fee- that was for $6.30. While this is an extreme case of oversight on the county’s part, it does bring up questions on how sheriff sales work and what you should know.
KDKA-AM’s Larry and John talked to Sgt. Richard Fersch, Supervisor of Sheriff Sales for Allegheny County, about how sheriff sales in Allegheny County work. One thing that Sgt. Fersch wants to emphasize is that Allegheny County gives you ample chances and time to pay the debt owed before an actual house sale occurs.
“Normally, from the time we serve notice to the person, it’s almost six months to a year before that property is brought to sheriff’s sale,” says Sgt. Fersch.
First, the person who owes the tax gets served a notice showing they’re behind in their taxes, followed by the taxing entity sending a notice of default, If the notice is ignored, a judgment is entered against them. After two or three months of ignoring that. a sheriff comes to the property and places a notice of sale, explaining the date and time of when the property will be sold. Even after that, there is still time to resolve the issue and even appeal the sale.
“This is a lengthy process- it’s not something that is done without these people knowing their property is in jeopardy,” says Sgt. Fersch.
The types of taxes owed that could trigger a sheriff sale of a home include borough taxes, school district taxes, City of Pittsburgh taxes, and water and Sewer Authority taxes.
Sgt. Fersch also cautioned potential buyers of property from a sheriff sale.
“I strongly urge people to do a title search. It’s sight unseen, buyer beware. You don’t even know if the structure has floors, walls, doors, plumbing, it’s very dangerous.”
And there’s no refunds or returning a property from a sheriff sale. Plus, you may end up paying a lot more money then expected. A house worth $100,000 that is being advertised for $5,600 could also have borough fees, other taxes, liens, and other charges that the buyer didn’t expect.
Sgt. Fersch also stressed that no one wants a tax issue to become a sheriff sale and that his office works hard to avoid them. His office has gone as far as helping an elderly woman who couldn’t pay her taxes by tracking down her son in San Francisco to get her help. She didn’t lose her home.
“That’s how Allegheny County watches out for its citizens.”