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Tax Foreclosure Sales Process for Real Property

When real property taxes become three years delinquent, the Whatcom County Treasurer is required by law to begin foreclosure action.  A certificate of delinquency is filed with the Superior Court.  Taxes, interest, penalties, and foreclosure costs begin to accrue.

A title search is conducted for each parcel.  As required by law, all parties with recorded legal interest (as revealed by the title search) are served with a notice and summons by certified or registered mail.  A notice and summons  is published in the local newspaper (RCW 84.64.050), as well as a missing persons ad.

The Whatcom County Treasurer receives a judgment from Superior Court foreclosing on the tax liens and ordering the sale of those parcels.  Parcels being foreclosed can be redeemed by their owners, or other parties with recorded legal interest, through the close of business on the day before the sale.  That is, they are allowed to pay all taxes, interest, penalties, costs and fees due, thus removing their parcel from the sale. After April 30, we accept only cash, cashier checks and money orders made payable to the Whatcom County Treasurer. Absolutely no personal, business or travelers checks will be accepted.

The next tax foreclosure auction is scheduled for November 2015. The sale is usually held in the Council Chambers on the first floor of the County Courthouse located at 311 Grand Avenue in Bellingham WA. This location may change to accommodate the number of participants expected at the sale. The most current minimum bid list can be viewed right here.

Can Prior Owners Redeem Their Property After Foreclosure?

Prior owners have no rights to the property after foreclosure, UNLESS they were a minor or legally incompetent.  Minors and legal incompetents have the right to redeem anytime within three years from the date of the foreclosure sale.  They redeem the property by paying the sales price, plus interest on the tax amount.  Any improvements made by the new owner would also be reimbursed. (RCW 84.64.070)

What happens to all of the property liens?

Generally, all liens on foreclosed property are extinguished.  However, the County can make no guarantees that the prior lienholders will honor this extinguishment.  IRS liens are usually also extinguished, but they are subject to a 120 day redemption period.  If prior lienholders attempt to collect on their liens after the property has been foreclosed on, it is entirely up to the new owner to defend against these claims. 

What happens to the excess proceeds?

If a parcel is sold at auction for more than the amount owing, the previous title owner of record can claim the surplus money.  This is the party who held title on the day that we filed the Certificate of Delinquency.  They have up to three years from the date of the sale to make their claim.  (RCW 84.64.080 and RCW 63.29.350) The Whatcom County Treasurer will not provide foreclosure surplus data to any requester without a signed public record access formAdobe

Researching properties

For additional information regarding how to research a tax foreclosure, tax-title, or county surplus parcels, see the Real Property Auction Research page.

How does the auction work?

See The Auction Process page for additional information on the process.

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