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It’s no surprise that municipalities in Massachusetts can seize your land for nonpayment of property taxes. 

But just how is this done?

A town or city’s authority to take possession of land for delinquent taxes is found in M.G.L. c. 60, § 53.  The statute allows a tax collector to begin the tax-taking process once a tax payment is 14 days past due.  To do this, he must give the homeowner 14 days’ notice of his intention to take possession of the land.  Notice must be served on the homeowner by a sheriff or constable or published in a local newspaper.  (For more detail regarding publication requirements, see M.G.L. c. 60, § 40.)  Additionally, the collector must, 14 days prior to the tax taking, post the notice “in two or more convenient and public places.” 

After the collector complies with these requirements, he will record an “Instrument of Taking” at the registry of deeds in the county where the land is located.  This document transfers ownership of the land to the municipality. 

Finally, the tax collector will employ an attorney to file a complaint in Land Court, pursuant to M.G.L. c. 60, § 65, seeking an order from the court foreclosing the owner’s right to redeem the land.  Once Land Court issues such an order, the municipality will likely sell the property and use the proceeds to pay the outstanding taxes as well as any legal fees and court costs incur in the process.