Delinquent Tax Sale

The following information does not constitute legal advice and anyone interested in purchasing at a tax sale is urged to seek independent legal advice.

The Property Tax Collection Process

The City of Bristol collects real and personal property taxes on property located within the city limits.  The City sends out tax bills in the fall of each year.  City taxes are due and payable as of October 1 of each year.  City taxes are delinquent as of January 5 of the following year.  Once property taxes are delinquent, penalties and interest accrue and become part of the City’s tax lien.  Thus, it is beneficial to pay taxes before they become delinquent. 

Every April, the City turns over taxes that became delinquent in the previous calendar year to the Sullivan County Clerk & Master.  For example, in April, 2018, the City turned over unpaid 2016 property taxes, which became delinquent on January 5, 2017.  Once delinquent taxes have been turned over to the Clerk & Master, the City can no longer accept payments on those delinquent tax years – instead, payment must be made to the Clerk & Master.  Delinquent taxes that have been turned over to the Clerk & Master are subject to additional fees and costs, and interest continues to accrue.

Each year, the City Attorney’s office will file a suit in chancery court to enforce the City’s lien for delinquent property taxes through the Delinquent Tax Sale Process.  The Tax Sale Process is the City’s only method for collecting delinquent real property taxes.

Delinquent Tax Sales

When property taxes are delinquent and suit has been filed, T.C.A. §67-5-2501 allows the City to seek a Court Order to sell the property for satisfaction of the delinquent tax lien or liens. The delinquent taxpayer may pay the Clerk & Master the amount owed any time before the sale and the lawsuit will be dismissed. 

Once the tax sale is scheduled, the costs of preparation and publication attach as additional costs to the properties scheduled. These fees cannot be waived.  Tax sale dates are scheduled by court proceedings and notices of upcoming tax sales will appear in a local newspaper and on this website. Anyone interested in receiving updates about tax sales can also click the Notify Me button above to be added to our mailing list.

Day of the Sale

The Clerk and Master conducts the Delinquent Tax Sale on behalf of the City of Bristol.  The Delinquent Tax Sale takes the form of an auction.  The Clerk & Master opens the bidding process with the total amount due on the property up through the latest year that has been turned over to the Clerk & Master.  Bidders must pre-register with the Clerk & Master.  Further information about the auction process can be obtained from the Clerk & Master’s office  

A property is sold AS IS and without any warranties. The City of Bristol makes NO WARRANTIES, express or implied, as to the title, condition, use, or any other matters relative to the property. The purchaser is responsible for determining the condition and location of a property. A potential purchaser is STRONGLY URGED to research parcels (or have someone experienced in title searches research) before the auction. Because penalties and interest on subsequent taxes accrue each month, the purchaser should consider paying any subsequent taxes and keeping the receipts so that the purchaser can seek reimbursement from the property owner if the property is redeemed.

Bidding and Payment

The successful bidder must make payment to the Clerk & Master’s office.

In accordance with state law, anyone who wishes to increase the final bid has ten (10) days to contact the court with the higher bid. This is referred to as a ‘re-bid.’ Any bid made after the auction has stopped on the day of the sale, but within the 10 days after the sale must be at least ten percent (10%) higher than the previous bid. If any property has a re-bid, it will be subject to an additional auction approximately thirty (30) days following the first auction.

Following the Sale

Following the sale, the Chancellor will issue an Order Confirming the Sale on each parcel. The previous owners, their heirs, lien holders, and assignees of redemption rights, have up to twelve (12) months from the date of the Order to redeem the property, subject to the exceptions listed in Tennessee Code Annotated 67-5-2701. A redeeming party must provide evidence that it holds an equitable or legal interest in the property or is a creditor of the former owner with a lien on the property. T.C.A. §67-5-2701.

If there are code violations or safety concerns requiring repairs or improvements, the bidder can make those improvements and an owner redeeming the property may have to reimburse those expenses as well. Any unnecessary improvements made are at the bidder’s expense and will not be reimbursed.  Bidders should consult legal counsel to determine the scope of their rights to preserve the property during the redemption period.

Upon expiration of the redemption period, the purchaser must call the Clerk & Master’s office to request that a Clerk & Master’s Deed be made. Any issues regarding holdover tenants or personal property left on the premises by the former owner must be settled between the new owner and the former owner. 

What happens if no one bids on a Tax Sale property? 

If no one bids on a particular property during the tax sale, the city may sell the property directly to an interested buyer following the redemption period.  The City currently has several properties available for purchase.  Please click the link below to see properties acquired by the City through the Delinquent Tax Sale Process.  For more information on how to purchase such properties, please see the City’s Policy for Sale of Real Property acquired by the City through the Delinquent Tax Sale Process.