Securing Tax Lien Property can be tricky! The law is unclear as to what you are allowed to do!
You have won your property and you are excited to take over your purchase! Definitely, go to your property as soon as possible and take an assessment of the situation.
Is anyone living there?
Of course, this seems like it would be obvious, but not necessarily so!! Often, tenants will abandon much of their property (typically not much that you would want, but their property, none the less) and it may not be clear whether or not they are still living there. If this is the case, where you are unsure, you must first follow the legal guidelines for evicting a tenant if they were the owners when the house went to the tax lien sale. Learn more about this procedure in the Eviction Process section.
However, you may discover that the tenants living on the property are not the owners, but are indeed rental tenants. This is a perfect scenario for Tax Lien Property, because you have tenants in place paying a monthly rent. Even if you intend to flip the property, you will be required to hold the property for AT LEAST 6 months until the redemption period ends, so you might as well be collecting rent!!!
If you have rental tenants, are they aware the property has been sold?
Chances are, if they are rental tenants, they are unaware that the property was for sale or has been sold. You will need to introduce yourself and discuss their rental agreement. If you are satisfied with the agreement, you will need to provide them with documentation proving that you now own the property and information so that they can know where to send the rent payments. I would also provide a new, written rental agreement so that there is no misunderstanding of the terms of rental.
If the homeowner has moved out, and only trash remains, what then?
This is the second easiest scenario. At this point, you simply contact a locksmith, provide him with your receipt of sale from the Sheriff’s sale, and ask him to change the locks. You will want to do this immediately because homeowners that have had their homes sold at a tax lien sale are often very disgruntled and could return to do damage to the home out of anger, especially if they continue to have access to the home. This will also give you access to the property (because no keys will be provided at the sale) and the opportunity to start accessing the needs for repair from the inside. Remember, ONLY repairs needed to maintain the condition of the property are eligible for reimbursement if the property is redeemed!
Once you have secured the property, is there anything else that should be done immediately?
Yes! GET INSURANCE! Remember, there is nothing stopping a disgruntled homeowner from setting the home on fire! Also, until you make repairs and have a tenant, the home is subject to vagrants breaking in and living there. Even if a vagrant breaks into your home, there have been legal cases where a homeowner has been held liable for injuries to vagrants or intruders due to unsafe conditions. You do not want to fall into this trap. Make certain and request insurance for an “unoccupied home” as this is different from an “occupied” home insurance policy.