Jackson County on Monday began auctioning the property of people who failed to pay their taxes this year.
The sale is expected to take a week because there are 7,600 pieces of property on the rolls where taxes are delinquent. The number is up 300 over last year, Tax Collector Joe Tucker said before the sale, so he’s expecting the sale to take an extra day.
The room was full of bidders, some buying in bulk and others having an interest in just one piece of property.
More property being sold for taxes is not a good sign, Tucker said. But he didn’t see a 300-parcel increase as a big indicator.
“Less would indicate more people have the money to pay their property taxes,” he said.
When a person fails to pay, the property is technically auctioned for taxes. What happens is the bidder pays the taxes and if the property owner makes good at a later date, he pays that person back via the county with interest and pays any county fees that apply.
A person loses their property when it has gone through two tax sales and they fail to pay the taxes a third year. Then property goes to Chancery Court and changes ownership to the person or company that paid the taxes, county officials said.
Some bidders are investors, some have their eye on a group of properties and others came to reclaim family property.
Ronald Green of the east Moss Point community of Orange Grove was at the auction for a small piece of property that has been in his family for decades.
It’s less than an acre and it is in his father’s name, even though his father has been dead for 42 years. His mother died two years ago and he is the last son alive. His property surrounds the small piece. This is the first year the taxes on the property haven’t been paid.
“I’m not here trying to buy somebody else’s piece of land out from under them,” he said. “I’m here trying to buy my own back in my name.”
There’s no house on it. However, he shopped around and found it would cost him $7,000 in attorney fees for a title search and other work that would “straighten it out.”
He said he was told they would have the property in his name “free and clear” in about three months. He said he couldn’t afford that.
“If I go through the tax sale,” he said, “it will take three years. Then I might have to go to court.”
When asked about the exact process, he said, “I don’t know. I’ve never done this. I’ve never had to do this. I’m hoping that after I’ve paid this for three years, yes, they will change it over into my name. That’s the idea.”
He asked for help at the courthouse.
“I told them I don’t have $7,000 to give the lawyers,” Green said.
He said he asked, “Can I just come down here and purchase it for taxes?”
“And the man said, ‘Yes sir, Mr. Green, you can do that,’ ” he said.
He figures it will cost him $600 to pay taxes on the small piece of family property for three years.
“I know this is business,” he said. “That’s what it is.”