Pennsylvania State Overview
Delinquent tax foreclosure properties are typically handled by the Tax Claim Bureau department within each Pennsylvania county. The county will hold two tax sales to try and sell tax delinquent real property. First, at the Upset Sale, then at the Judicial Sale where tax liens are wiped out. If a property goes unsold at both tax sales, it will go onto the ‘Repository’ list and will be available during much of the year for over-the-counter purchase via mail-in offer process. Some counties will also hold a third auction; a repository sale consisting of previously unsold properties.
In Pennsylvania, the tax collector or treasurer will sell tax deeds to the winning bidders at the delinquent property tax sale. The bidder willing to pay the most wins the bidding contest.
- Tax Sale Type: Tax Deed (see notes).
- Contact: County Tax Claim Bureau
- Interest Rate and/or Penalty Rate: Not applicable.
- Bid Procedure: Premium bid / highest bid.
- Redemption Period: Not applicable.
- Law: Pennsylvania “Real Estate Tax Sale Law” Act 542 of 1947, P.L. 1368; 72 P.S. 5860.101
In accordance with the Tax Sale law, the municipal Tax Claim Bureau is able to sell parcels in one of four ways (Article VI. Sale of Property.); (a) Upset Sale (Sec 601 – 609), (b) Judicial Sale (Sec 610 – 612.2), (c) Private Sale (Sec 613 – 615), and (f) Repository for Unsold Property (Sec 625 – 630).
The Upset Sale is scheduled each September and includes those parcels whose taxes, from two years earlier, remain unpaid or other specified conditions exist.
A Private Sale can occur after a property has been exposed but not sold at an Upset Sale. An interested buyer submits a written bid to the Tax Claim Bureau. The Bureau decides whether to accept the bid. If accepted, the bid is advertised in a newspaper. Any one objecting to the sale must petition the court within 45 days to disprove the sale.
A Judicial Sale is held at least once each year and can include only those properties that have been exposed but not sold at an Upset Sale. After advertisement, notice to owners and lien holders, etc., the parcels are presented free and clear of all liens.
A Repository Sale consists of properties that are exposed but not sold at a Judicial Sale. Any bid on a repository property must be approved by all taxing districts where the property is located (i.e. township borough, county, school).
Special sales and redemption provisions apply in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Scranton and in Allegheny County.