Chief tax deputy Heather Sparks addresses commissioners Thursday. / Photo by Monica Zalaznik

Chief tax deputy: There’s still time to redeem delinquent properties but the window is shorter

BUCKHANNON – There were approximately 1,323 delinquent real estate taxes in Upshur County for 2021.

Chief Tax Deputy Heather Sparks delivered the final disposition of 2021 taxes during the Jan. 12 Upshur County Commission meeting. In 2022, the State of West Virginia took over the annual land sale, which caused several changes.

“I’m here today to present the delinquent real estate taxes — this was a different year for sure, we were scared and skeptical — but so far everything has started running smoothly,” Sparks said. “The land sale process for these taxes started in May last year, so in May of 2022, there were approximately 1,323 delinquent real estate taxes. We advertised this list in The Record Delta according to West Virginia State Code, which meant it only had to be published once at that time.”

Sparks said they typically have about six weeks to research properties and send out certified letters, but they were limited to three weeks due to the new system.

“We sent out close to 1,000 letters on Sept. 30 to property owners and lien holders before the certification to the state,” Sparks said. “We did have 961 of the 1,300 tax tickets redeemed and that totaled approximately $384,000, which redeemed just means they were paid prior to the certification.”

The tax office also suspended 63 gas royalties and 122 properties that were sold to the state in their sale last year.

“All of those together totaled about $2,300 and on Nov. 1 of this year, 177 properties totaling $56,000 in taxes approximately were certified to the state of West Virginia,” Sparks said. “The state will hold on to these properties until they have their land sale, which will be anytime between April first through July 1. They will run another publication list of remaining delinquent properties on March 1 of this year and they will also be sending out some certified letters to landowners and such.”

Sparks wanted to emphasize that people can redeem their properties and get them back.

“They cannot contact our office; they must contact the West Virginia State Auditor’s Office at 1-888-509-6568 and the State Auditor’s Office will let them know exactly what they have to do, the amount that has to be paid and such,” Sparks said.

The state will be arriving at courthouses across the state to conduct the land sales themselves between April 1, 2023, and July 1, 2023.

“After the land sale, purchasers have about 120 days to do the title search and get notifications to owners and then if the purchaser completes all those tasks, the current owners will only have roughly about 150 days to redeem their properties,” Sparks said. “It used to be 18 months, but now they have five months to get that done.”

Sparks also made a point to thank her tax deputies for all their hard work during this new process.

“I always want to take the opportunity to thank my tax deputies for their dedication and their hard work; as I said, we were skeptical, we were worried we didn’t have any idea how this new tax process was going to work, we just knew we had less time to do what we needed to get done,” Sparks said. “We got it done at the level we’ve always gotten it done, which was important to us, all of my tax deputies go above and beyond to make the tax office run as smoothly as possible.”

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