Upset Sale

This is part 3 in the Tax Claim Life Cycle series.

The Upset Sale is held annually.  By law, it must be scheduled on or after the second Monday in September and before October 1st.  The county may split the sale into multiple dates if there are a large number of properties involved.

Generally speaking, the properties taken to Upset Sale are those with unpaid taxes returned by the tax collector at the start of the prior calendar year.  For example, the properties taken to Upset Sale in September of 2002 would be those whose 2000 taxes went unpaid and were turned in by the tax collector in January of 2001.

Advertisement Requirement

At least 30 days prior to the sale, the sale must be advertised in at least two newspapers (if so many are published within the county).  The notice must contain the following information:

  • the purpose of the sale
  • the time and date of the sale
  • the location of the sale
  • the approximate upset price for each parcel
  • a description of each parcel (normally a tax map number) and the name of the owner(s)

Our software generates the required advertisement language in a simple text file that you can email to newspapers for publication.

Personal Service Requirement

At least 10 days prior to the sale, the sheriff or his deputy must personally serve the owner of any owner-occupied property.  Only a single owner occupant must be served.  If the sheriff cannot perform such service within 25 days of the bureau’s request, the bureau may petition the court to waive the requirement.  Our Tax Claim software generates the personal service forms for each parcel you identify as owner-occupied, saving time and minimizing errors.

Owner Notification Requirement

At least 30 days prior to the sale, the bureau must provide notice of the upcoming sale to each owner via certified mail, return receipt requested.  Our Tax Claim software integrates with the US Postal Service to automatically attach electronic receipts of certified mailings to the sale document file for a parcel.  This feature can save dozens or even hundreds of hours of manual filing and/or scanning of physical USPS receipts.

Second Notice Requirement

At least 10 days prior to the sale, the bureau must send a second notice to each owner who failed to sign for the original notification.  This mailing does not require a return receipt, but it does require proof of mailing.  To reduce paperwork, the USPS provides Certificate of Mailing proof via PS Form 3877, Firm Mailing Book for Accountable Mail.  Form 3877 contains 8 entries per page where you record each recipient’s address.  The Post Office then stamps each page of Form 3877 as proof that you mailed letters to each address.

Our software prefills Form 3877, saving several hours of work.  The real time savings, though, is after the Post Office stamps each page of the form.  You scan the stamped form in its entirety; this may be several dozen pages.  The program then automatically extracts only the page(s) that applies to a given parcel and creates a sale document record to hold the scanned page(s).  This can save weeks of manual labor in sorting, copying, scanning, and filing this paperwork.

Property Posting Requirement

At least 10 days prior to the sale, each property must be physically posted.  This involves prominently displaying a printed page with all of the same information as the mailed notice in a conspicuous area readily visible to both the owner and general public.  The law provides specific instructions as to where the posters must be placed.

The law does not specify who must post the parcels.  Some counties use employees, such as field assessors or sheriff deputies, while other counties contract with an outside vendor.

Our software works in both situations.  It will prepare lists of parcels in an electronic form to send to an outside vendor.  It will also produce the printed posters for county employees to hang.  We have integrated with GIS to provide an inset map of the parcel on the poster.  We have even provided a live, color-coded map on laptops that employees can use in the field to track which parcels have been posted and which ones must still be done.  This works especially well for rural counties because the map does not require an internet connection.

For more information, refer to §601 and §602 of the Real Estate Tax Sale Law.

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  1. Pingback: Tax Claim Life Cycle – PA Tax Software

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