Monday, August 28, 2017


We have had a number of people wanting to donate property to the Land Trust over the past year because they have not been able to find a buyer for it.

Unfortunately, the Land Trust is not in a financial position to accept property at this time. So, I am often asked "What if I just stopped paying taxes? Wouldn't somebody reposess the land?" In short, the answer is NO. While I am NOT an attoreny, I have researched this issue for the Land Trust and can tell you that this is how it appears to work...

The County has the right to sell your property for taxes after five years of delinquency. However, putting property on the auction block costs the County money, and Modoc is a very poor county who cannot afford to do that as many times as they may be "allowed" to by law. So, every year in the Spring they put about 500 properties up for auction. That is only about 10% of the properties that are eligible for tax sale here. I think they only advertise these locally, but they go up on a website called "", so I assume that website advertises them in some way.

Of those that go up for auction, maybe 30% actually sell. A few sell for full tax value which is set as the "Reserve" price (as is required in the "First Round" of sales) but most wait for the "Second Round" of sales, where the County is allowed by law to accept whatever they think they can get (Bid4Assets will indicate this by showing there is "No Reserve" price set for the property). This might be as little as $500 per property (the cost the County has to pay to process the land through escrow). For all I know, they may even accept less.

The properties that sell revert to the new owners with all debt cleared and a clear title (a GREAT deal!), but those that do not sell stay with the original owner and the taxes remain past due and continue to add up each year (along with all the penalties) guaranteeing no one will buy it from you as the past taxes far exceed the actual value of the land.

In the mean time, the POA is owed Association Dues (as required by the CC&Rs). This money is important to them because they have been doing maintenance on the roads and communally-owned properties here all this time, as they are required to by the CC&Rs. Right now those dues amount to $80 per year. If you fall behind on dues, the POA can threaten your credit rating. I don't know if the County can do that, but the POA can, and has. It is my understanding that they collected over $50,000 in past dues last year using this method. Also, it is my understanding that selling your property or having it go to tax sale, DOES NOT absolve you from paying past-due POA dues.
People like to make the County and the POA out to be the villains in this scenario, but they are not. The POA and the County have a legal obligation to provide services to this area, whether we all pay our dues and taxes or not, and fulfilling those obligations costs money. The villain in this story is the developer who subdivided this land into so many (15,000) small lots, many of them of questionable development value, and created the service obligation for the POA and County. The developer is long gone, but they had a great marketing team and managed to sell every last property to a public thirsty for a "retreat" from the world. Now, nearly 50 years has past, and only about 3% of the properties have houses on them. Clearly dreams and reality have not collided here for everyone.

However, there are still people out there with the "retreat" dream. In fact, many people happily own property here just to camp on occasionally. So, if you don't want your property any more, it is my recommendation you should put your propety up for sale at a very affordable price using free sites as much as possible. These include and Craig's list. Zillow, eBay and Bid4Assets may also be viable for you, but I believe they either cost money or take a share of the sales price. You will need to check. You can also try to find a real estate agent, but I have been told that no real estate agent in the area will list raw land in Cal Pines because it takes too long to sell and costs them money to list and show during that time. If you find one that will, let me know!

As you are waiting for your property to sell, protect your credit by continuing to pay the POA's dues, and protect your ability to sell your property by continuing to pay the County's taxes.
One last thing, you may be tempted to use a quit-claim deed to transfer ownership of your property, but I would not recommend it. I have been told it does NOT provide enough protection to the buyer or the seller with regards to ownership unless you are transferring property to a spouse. Apparently a "land sale" contract is what you want for unimproved property. Best of all, is a grant deed that has title insurance attached. Again, I am not an attorney, and you should research this yourself before relying on this advice. I am only passing on what I have heard, but I heard it from what I consider a reliable source.

The moral to the story is that even free land costs money and carries ongoing obligations. Before you buy or accept land that someone whats to give you (either as a gift or a bequest), research it to know what those obligations are. You may be stuck with them for a very long time.

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