Tax Title Procedure Overview

The Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct prohibit City of Boston Law Department personnel from providing any legal assistance or advice. Taxpayers seeking legal assistance or advice should secure the assistance of a licensed attorney.  Notwithstanding this limitation, the Tax Title Division provides this brief summary of the tax title procedure for the reference of taxpayers.

Assessment of Taxes
  • The City's Assessing Department identifies taxable parcels and owners of property from the land records maintained at the Suffolk County Registry of Deeds and from taxpayer communications.

  • The City assesses the owner of record as of January 1, for the following fiscal year which begins six (6) months later on July 1.

Collection of Taxes
  • The Assessing Department transmits ownership information to the Collector -Treasurer and the Collector-Treasurer mails out quarterly property tax bills on July 1, October 1, January 1 and April 1.

  • Tax payments are generally due within 30 days of the bill.  In accordance with state law, any amounts not paid accrue interest at a rate of 14%.           

  • Any taxes that remain unpaid at the end of the fiscal year (June 30) are certified to the tax title account and, in accordance with state law, the interest rate increases to 16%.

Tax Taking
  • After certification to a tax title account, the C/T issues a tax taking, also known as a tax lien, on the property and records the tax taking within 60 (sixty) days at the Suffolk County Registry of Deeds.

  • The tax taking is a claim of legal ownership by the City, subject to the right to redeem.

Petition to Foreclose
  • If the tax is still not paid after six (6) months, the City’s Law Department files a complaint in the Land Court to foreclose the rights of redemption.

  • Upon the filing of the petition, the Land Court assigns a title examiner to perform a title exam on the property for the purpose of identifying all persons with an interest in the property.

  • The Land Court, through certified mail, then sends a citation or notice of the foreclosure proceedings to all interested persons identified in the title report.

  • The citation or notice will state a return day, which is the deadline to file an Answer in the Land Court.  An Answer can either be prepared by the taxpayer or a pro forma Answer may be obtained at the Land Court.  By filing an Answer, the taxpayer ensures that he or she will be notified of all future Land Court proceedings.             

  • A party who fails to file an Answer can be defaulted and, accordingly, waive his or her right to contest the foreclosure and/or receive future notices from the Court.

  • If all parties entitled to notice are notified and fail to file Answers, the Court may enter a General Default and issue a foreclosure judgment without any hearing.

  • If one or more parties of interest file Answers with the Land Court, the Law Department will request a hearing for the purpose of seeking a Finding.  A Finding is a ruling by the Land Court that a certain sum of money is due; the Finding sets forth a timeframe by which the tax title account must be paid.      

  • The City cannot move forward with the case until the Finding period expires.  

  • If the Finding expires and the Tax Title account balance has not been paid in full, the City will request a hearing for the purpose of obtaining a judgment of foreclosure against the parties who have filed Answers.  A hearing on a motion for judgment is the final step in contested cases.   

  • As with uncontested cases, if the Court issues a Judgment, the City becomes the owner of the property and the taxpayer loses all rights in the property.