Last year’s land sale for delinquent tax properties attracted a sizable turnout.

Officials hope the same is true for the 2021 tax sale, tentatively scheduled for 10 a.m. on Nov. 18 under a tent in front of the Greene County Courthouse.

While most property owners eventually pay back taxes, there was great interest in the ones made available to the public last year, county delinquent property tax attorney William S. Nunnally said Tuesday.

“The bidding (on properties) was exceptionally high,” Nunnally said. “We had a much bigger turnout than normal.”

Parcels with unpaid taxes for the years 2014 and 2015 will be sold on Nov. 18. Nunnally said the goal is not to benefit county coffers, but to encourage property owners to pay off delinquent taxes before a parcel is made available to the public.

“Our goal is not to sell the property out from under the owner. The money goes to (pay the tax), then the leinholder at least gets some money,” he said.

Parcels with back taxes owed total about 1,200 in Greene County and 160 in the Town of Greeneville. There will be far fewer for tax years 2014 and 2015 that actually go on the block at the Nov. 18 sale, Nunnally said.

It’s the first time parcels from two years will be made available at the same sale, Nunnally said.

The November 2020 land sale for delinquent taxes covered the year 2013. The previous sale was held in June 2019. There was no sale in 2018, in part the reason for two years’ worth of tax-delinquent properties being made available on Nov. 18.

Nunnally said that there are often extenuating circumstances connected to properties that are sold to satisfy unpaid taxes, such as the death of the owner, or an owner being in a nursing home or otherwise unable to satisfy a tax claim.

The November 2020 sale was conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic, as the upcoming sale is likely to be. There is no direct evidence correlating the recent nationwide boom in real estate sales to the energetic bidding at last year’s sale, Nunnally said.

“These are local investors and for whatever reason, the bids were very competitive,” he said.

Interest in the sale may have been spurred through effective pre-sale advertising and word of mouth, he said.

Nunnally and Greene County Clerk & Master Kay Solomon Armstrong would much rather owners of tax-delinquent properties settle accounts.

Solomon said public awareness of some tax-delinquent properties may have been heightened by yard signs.

“I did place yard signs on certain parcels that were offered in the tax sale,” Solomon said Tuesday in an email.

In the 2020 sale, properties were sold to “the best and highest bidder(s),” according to a legal notice published in The Greeneville Sun.

More than 40 tax-delinquent properties in the Town of Greeneville and Greene County were offered for sale to the public. Some had houses on them and others were tracts of land.

“Last year’s sale was a very successful tax sale,” Armstrong said. “No parcel had to be ‘bid in’ by the county, for lack of interest by the bidders (on site).”

In advance of the planned Nov. 18 tax sale. Nunnally will place legal notices in The Greeneville Sun.

Solomon said that the Clerk & Masters Office will also “cause a ‘Land Sale Notice’ to be published in The Greeneville Sun approximately one month prior to the sale date, as well as a mass email will be sent by the court’s web host to those that have joined the mailing list on the court’s website:

The sales will be made to satisfy the terms of the judgments for 2014 and 2015 for Greene County and Town of Greeneville real property taxes, a notice to be published before the sale will state.

A notice posted for the 2020 sale said that property prices will be “the same being the amount of tax,” inclusive of subsequent years’ taxes, “if any, that have been turned over to the Clerk and Master, interest, fees, and costs,” including an additional $100 “as of the month of said sale, against (listed) tracts/parcels of land.”

Some properties have liens for unpaid taxes in several different years, Armstrong said in a 2020 interview.

Once taxes go unpaid on a property, the owner is given up to about three years to make good on the sum owed. Armstrong said a list of the previous year’s delinquent taxes are sent to her office on April 1 of each year, and the effort to reach property owners begins. Property owners have the option of paying with a late penalty.

Efforts are also made by Nunnally to contact the property owner.

The preferable solution is for property owners to get caught up on their taxes.

“My job is to notify these taxpayers and get them to pay,” Nunnally said. “It’s obviously to collect the taxes and, if we can avoid it, not sell the property and collect the taxes.”

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