Overview of the Sheriff Sale Process

WARNING: All Sheriff’s Sales are strictly monitored for any and all suspicious and fraudulent activity (Including but not limited to Computer, Identity, Bank, Wire, etc.). If the Sheriff’s office detects any suspicious and/or fraudulent activity during any sale, at the Sheriff’s discretion, the bidder’s account shall be suspended for whatever action deemed appropriate. Furthermore, those individuals face both criminal and civil liability and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

There are two types of Sheriff Sales: The Judicial Mortgage Foreclosure Sales and the Tax Sales. The Tax Sales include Tax Lien, Tax Collection, and Tax Delinquent Sales.

Tax Sales

When the owner of a property located in the City of Philadelphia fails to make a payment arrangement on municipal debt levied on his/her property, that property may be sold at the Tax Sheriff Sale to allow the City to collect on that unpaid debt.  These debts can include outstanding water and sewer bills, School District of Philadelphia taxes, and city property taxes.  The sales also provide individuals the opportunity to bid on and become the owner of tax-delinquent properties, thereby acquiring lots, houses, and/or commercial and industrial buildings.

Judicial Mortgage Foreclosure Sale

The Judicial Mortgage Foreclosure Sheriff Sale is the process by which mortgage companies and other financial institutions seek to collect debts owed to them, particularly in instances where a homeowner defaults on his/her mortgage payments.  As with Tax Sales, Foreclosure Sales allow individuals the opportunity to bid on properties and become homeowners.

How much will a property cost?

Please refer to the Conditions of Sale page for both tax sales and mortgage foreclosure sales information. Please be advised that Realty Transfer Taxes have been calculated and included in the bid amounts.

The second bidder

If you have been outbid on a property, you can have your name recorded as the second bidder.  If the highest bidder does not pay the balance in 15 calendar days, the second bidder shall be granted the same 15-day limit to make settlement with the Sheriff on his/her second bid. The second bidder must be registered on any property immediately after it is sold.  The second bidder must present the same amount of deposit that the highest bidder delivers to the Sheriff at the stage.  An extension of time under no circumstances will be granted or honored by the Sheriff whenever a second bid is registered at the sale.

How do I learn which properties are to be sold?

All properties that are court-ordered to be sold at Sheriff Sales are advertised in the Legal Intelligencer and on a rotating basis in a paper of general circulation. You can also view a list of properties to be sold at Sheriff Sale online by clicking here.

The Philadelphia Land Bank will be bidding on certain properties that have been identified on the Sheriff Sale list. The Land Bank’s bids are known as “priority bids,” which are authorized by the Commonwealth’s Land Bank Act.

The properties the Land Bank will be bidding on are being offered for sale at the City’s opening bid. However, because the Land Bank has the exclusive right to acquire these properties, no bids other than the Land Bank bids will be accepted.

When and where do the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Sales take place?

The Judicial Foreclosure Sale is held on the first Tuesday of each month.  There are also four different Tax Sales conducted each month and one on a quarterly basis. Click here for a list of all Sheriff Sales currently scheduled.  All sales will take place at 10 a.m. on the Bid4Assets Philadelphia Sheriff Sales web page.

How are the properties identified before and during the sale?

Each property has an identification number called the book and writ number, which is listed in the newspaper and on our online listing before the property address.  This number is used together with the property address when the property is offered for sale.

IMPORTANT: Notice of owner’s Right of Redemption after a Tax Delinquent Sale

Even if you win a bid on a Tax Sale property, within nine months of the acknowledgment of the deed, the owner of record can go to court and get permission to recover the property by paying all back taxes and the money paid by the winning bidder.  This is called the Right of Redemption.  Therefore, if you purchase a property through the Delinquent Tax Sheriff Sale and invest funds to improve the property in the first year, beware that those funds can be lost.  The Right of Redemption is only applicable if the property scheduled for Tax Sale is determined to be owner-occupied 90 days prior to the sale.  If the property is unoccupied or abandoned, there is no Right of Redemption.

The Right of Redemption does not apply to any property sold at the Mortgage Foreclosure Sheriff Sale.  One way to protect yourself is to contact the City’s Department of Licenses and Inspections to determine what outstanding code violations, if any, exist in the property.

Any work done to correct these violations must be reimbursed to you if the original owner reclaims the property during the Right of Redemption period. Therefore, make sure you get and keep detailed and accurate receipts for code-related renovations.

What should you do before you bid?

  • Take a close look.  It is strongly recommended that persons planning to bid at the sales make a site visit to the property prior to the sale.  Many persons have bid on vacant lots thinking that they were bidding on a property containing residential structures.  The City is not authorized to permit or arrange for entry into properties listed for Sheriff Sales. Generally, properties are sold free and clear of liens and encumbrances. However, some properties are sold subject to other liens. You take subject to those liens to the extent they remain unpaid.
  • In order to buy a property from any tax sale, you must be tax-compliant. Proof of compliance must be provided at the time of final settlement.
  • Consider the rehab costs.  While there are some bargains to be had at Sheriff Sales, potential bidders, especially those seeking residential properties, are cautioned that the condition of properties may vary widely.

Things to know after your successful bid

Occupied property
When the Sheriff’s Deed Poll is issued to the winning bidder, he/she becomes the official new owner of the property. If the property is occupied, the new owner must start a judicial procedure for ejectment to have the occupant removed.

Sheriff Sale Compliance

  • The purpose of the Sheriff Sale Compliance procedure is to verify that properties purchased at Sheriff Sale are sold to individuals/companies that are currently paying their taxes and are up to date on all tax filings.(Properties are sold presumably at a discount, with no liens or encumbrances attached to the property.) Compliance is mandatory for the sale to be settled with the Sheriff’s Office. The winning bidder at a sale is given a specific time frame to settle the purchase of properties from the date of the Sheriff Sale. There are currently four (4) Sheriff Sales held each month that require Sheriff Sale Compliance; the Linebarger 6000 series sale (funded liens), Linebarger 2000 series sale (collection properties), GRB 4000 series sale (collection properties), and the Revenue Delinquent tax sale 0001-0300 series (our in-house sale through Revenue Law). The Mortgage Sale series 301-1000 does not require Sheriff Sale compliance because all delinquencies are paid in full through the Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff Sale Compliance Procedures

  • Buyer to include, name of business or individual purchasing the property, last four digits of SSN or EIN.
  • Revenue staff will validate that all required tax filings, Real Estate tax, and Refuse fees are paid in full or issues bills, advises of missing tax returns, etc.•Compliance Form would include; the name/company of the Sheriff Sale purchaser, date form is valid, signature of Judicial Sales Staff, date form was issued.
  • Once the account is in compliance the Judicial Sales Unit would issue a one-page Sheriff Sale Compliance form that would be valid for properties purchased at any sale for a minimum of 30 days.
  • Revenue staff will research purchaser’s account in tips, issue a T5 application or create a general account as necessary for first-time buyers.
  • Buyers must send a request for a Sheriff Sale Compliance Certificate to SheriffSale.Compliance@phila.gov immediately after they have purchased the property at sale.

DISCLAIMER: The Sheriff’s office is only responsible for our process. There are other agencies involved in pre/post-sale processes. The Sheriff’s Office is not responsible for non-completion of their process due to closures and limited staffing.


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