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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Behind on Your Property Taxes? Learn About Baltimore City’s Tax Sale Exemption Program

Each year, Baltimore City sells homeowners’ unpaid city bills to outside bidders who then charge interest and fees, allowable under state law, to property owners. The 2022 Tax Sale will take place on May 16.

An owner-occupied property is eligible for tax sale if the total of its unpaid city bills is $750 or more. These liens include unpaid real property taxes, special benefits assessments, alley and footway paving bills, streetscape, minor privilege, multi-family dwelling, clean and board, environmental control citations, and residential registration charges and fees. Beginning in 2020, unpaid water bills no longer count toward the $750 tax sale eligibility threshold for owner-occupied properties

The tax sale process is confusing, incredibly difficult to navigate and all too often homeowners are not properly informed throughout the process. With tax sale approaching in a few months, it’s important to know how to make sure your home stays out of the tax sale. 

Tax Sale Exemption Program— The Tax Sale Exemption Program is an annual city program managed by the Departments of Finance and Housing and Community Development. Successful applicants have their properties removed from tax sale in the year that they apply. This is the first year that the program is in effect. 

The city sets aside funds annually to remove people from tax sale. From that starting balance, the amount of each applicant’s liens is deducted from the balance remaining. Once the funds are exhausted, the program closes.  

Who is eligible?— To be eligible to participate in this program, homeowners must meet the following criteria: 

  *The assessed value of their home is $250,000 or less;

  *The homeowner has lived in their home as a primary residence for at least 15 years; and one of the following:

  *The homeowner has a total annual household earned income of $36,000 or less; or

  *The homeowner is at least 65 years old and has an annual earned income of $75,000 or less; or

  *The homeowner is an adult currently receiving disability benefits from the Federal Social Security Disability Insurance Program or the Supplemental Security Income Program and has an annual earned income of $75,000 or less.

How to apply— Applications will be accepted from February 15 to April 15. Residents must apply every year to exempt qualified properties from the annual tax sale. 

The number of properties removed from tax sale through this program is limited, and applications are reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis, so it is best to apply as early as possible.

Eligible homeowners can obtain an application on the DHCD website. Residents may also pick up a paper application at the 1st floor of the Abel Wolman Building and the 11th floor of 417 E. Fayette Street, Baltimore, 21202.

To submit a paper application, you can mail it or bring it to:

Baltimore City Department of Housing and Community Development at 

417 E. Fayette Street, Suite 1125 (11th floor) Baltimore, MD 21202. 

For more information regarding the application process, please call the Department of Finance at 410-396 3000 or email the Department of Housing & Community Development at [email protected]

This program does not forgive unpaid bills, and if the accounts are not paid, they may qualify the property for tax sale the following year.

Other helpful resources:

Baltimore Tax Sale Clinics— Homeowners may receive free legal consultation and assistance by attending a tax sale clinic. Homeowners thinking about applying for the Tax Sale Exemption Program can seek a consultation to make sure they’re also receiving all potential benefits. Homeowners can call the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland at 443-703-3052 to learn more about the tax sale prevention clinics.

Maryland Homeowners’ Property   Tax Credit— Homeowners must apply every year for this credit. Deadline to apply is October 1, 2022.

Learn more at by clicking here or call 410-767-4433 or 443-961-6220.

Water4All— Water4All is a new water assistance program that provides a monthly discount for water and sewer costs based on a percentage of Baltimore City Residents’ income. For the first time, tenants who do not directly pay their water bills are eligible to apply for water payment assistance.

Aja’ Mallory is a staff attorney at the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (www.mvlslaw.org ). Her practice focuses on housing and consumer issues for Marylanders of limited means.

Do you have a question you would like to see addressed in this column? Email [email protected]  to submit your question to the Baltimore Times’ legal tip column.

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