Buyer Beware at County Tax Foreclosure Sale

I recently received a call from an 87 year old property owner who had land for sale in upstate New York. He had recently received a confusing letter from the county regarding his property and asked me if I would look into it. Here is what I found. Back in 1972, this gentleman’s father had purchased a 2 acre parcel of land from the county at a tax foreclosure sale. His father had paid for the property and all of the associated recording fees and in return he received a Quit Claim Deed from the county. Tax maps showed the location of the property.

Fast forward 40 years:

After paying his taxes on time for over 40 years, the county has informed him that his parcel no longer exists. It appears that the next door neighbor recently filed a claim with the county that the parcel in question was his. He was able to document his claim and the parcel ownership was changed was was incorporated into the neighbors property.  Since a Quit Claim Deed was used to transfer the parcel 40 years earlier, the county takes no responsibility in the mistake and has offered no refund for the original purchase price or the years of taxes that were paid. They admit that they do not know where the elderly gentleman’s property is located. By definition a Quit Claim Deed is a deed that conveys to the grantee (buyer) only such interests in property as the grantor (seller) may have> The grantee assuming responsibility for any claims brought against the property.In this case the grantor was the county and since they had no interest in the property, they convey no interest to the buyer.

With the economy still in the tanks, more and more people are looking to buy cheap land through county tax foreclosure sales. Buyers must perform their due diligence on any property that they bid on at these tax foreclosure sales to ensure that they will not have their ownership contested sometime in the future. As the saying goes, It’s Buyer Beware.

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