Many counties in the United States sell tax liens to investors to recoup unpaid property taxes. The lien is essentially a loan to the property owner, who must pay the lien buyer back with interest and penalties. In the state of Washington, there are no sales of tax liens. Instead there are annual tax foreclosure auctions. These tax foreclosure auctions turn over the deed to the property to the winning bidder, which makes Washington a tax deed state. Some counties in Washington have statements on their websites that say they do not sell tax liens or tax deeds; however, the tax foreclosure auction provides the deed to the property, so therefore it is a tax deed state.
Three Years' Delinquent
Any property that has unpaid taxes of three years or more can be put up for auction at the tax foreclosure sale. It's important to know that in Washington, this does not mean the past three years' worth of taxes have gone unpaid. While the current year's taxes can be paid up to date, if the property has unpaid taxes from three or more years ago, that property can still be sold at the tax foreclosure auction.
Tax Foreclosure Auction
The tax foreclosure auction for each county is generally held once each year. It is an oral auction that must be attended in person.
Each tax foreclosure property has a minimum bid that includes all past-due taxes and any additional fines, fees or assessments. The minimum bid does not cover any special assessment liens or Internal Revenue Service liens.
No Redemption Period
With two exceptions, there is no redemption period for previous property owners. Once the property is sold at the tax foreclosure auction, the winning bidder is issued the property deed, or title, and the previous owner has no further rights to the property.
The only two exceptions to the no redemption law is for minors and people who were incapacitated at the time of the auction. In these two cases, the previous owners have up to three years to redeem the auctioned property.
All Sales Final
All sales made at the Washington state tax foreclosure auctions are final. Winning bidders cannot get refunds for any reason. Properties are sold where is and as is, regardless of whether they are worthless to the winning bidder or not. Washington state strongly advises auction bidders to research and view each piece of available tax foreclosure property before placing bids at the auction.