Vacant Property Purchase at Upset Tax Sale without receiving deed

4 Replies

Hello guys, my name is David from Centre County, PA. We recently purchase a few property through the upset tax sale in Dauphin and York County at end of September. My question is, since we had not receive the taxclaim deed, would we be able to ask a locksmith to pop the lock and enter since those are vacant properties? or we would have to wait till the taxclaim deed to be recorded to enter the properties?

Thank you guys in advance to helping me.



LEGALLY, you might need to wait.  But in reality, I would think it would depend on the locksmith.  I know whenever I've had to be let into my place (forgetful and locked myself out), I've had to show proof that I lived there after getting in, but that was through the Army, so maybe civilians are more slack?  Or perhaps you can just show any paperwork you received such as a receipt with the address and just tell them you are still waiting for the deed.

Good luck!

@David Spengler Your best bet is to look up the actual applicable city, county, and state statutes. The next best is a local real estate attorney. Maybe one will answer a question or two free of charge.

In CA, if you are the winning bidder at a trustee sale, you are technically the owner of that property as of 8 am the morning of that sale assuming that you record the trustee's deed within 15 days. If you don't record within 15 days, then you have not perfected title and there could be an issue as to when you technically own the property. If I was the winning bidder at auction, I went to the property right afterward with a receipt in hand and changed the locks with no issues. I then waited to get the trustee's deed and recorded it within the 15 days.

I don't know PA or your county so I don't know what the laws are. Given that, if I were you, I would lock and secure those properties only. I would want to protect my assets from the elements, squatters, and damage. I would wait until I got the deeds before doing any clean up, rehab, or anything else. Just my opinion, nothing more :) See the first thing I said above before doing anything, though!

@David Spengler

As a general rule, PA law says you are the owner of the property upon winning the bid at a tax sale --- whether it's upset or judicial. The tax claim deed makes you the record owner. That has many consequences but I don't know if it has any meaningful consequences when it comes to changing locks. The bigger liability concern there is whether the properties are truly vacant. If they are not, you have to do take other legal actions before being able to change the locks. Note that you'll have to take such legal actions regardless of whether the tax deeds are recorded. 

Disclaimer: While I’m an attorney licensed to practice in PA, I’m not your attorney. What I wrote above does not create an attorney/client relationship between us. I wrote the above for informational purposes. Do not rely on it as legal advice. Always consult with your attorney before you rely on the above information.

Thank you guys for the information. I been inquiring with many attorney and investor and notice this question had no defined answer. At the end, I believe the one thing you have to make sure of is the vacancy of the property. If you can confirm the owner will not be around or past away (without heirs) . You can changed the lock and enter the property to do some minor demo. If you cannot confirm the vacancy of  property, is best to wait for the deed. 

Create Lasting Wealth Through Real Estate

Join the millions of people achieving financial freedom through the power of real estate investing

Start here