Tax Defaulted Land Sales

Mina Martinovich, Department of Finance

The purpose of a tax sale is to collect unpaid property taxes and to convey the tax defaulted property to another owner. Each property offered at tax sale is subject to the Tax Collector's Power to Sell because property taxes have not been paid for five or more years. All parties of interest associated with properties offered at tax sale have until close of business the day prior to the tax sale to redeem the defaulted taxes and remove the property from tax sale. For more information, contact our office at (415) 473-6133.

Marin County Tax Collector
County of Marin Civic Center, Room 202
P.O. Box 4220
San Rafael, CA 94913-4220

Important note: There is no extended right of redemption in the State of California.


General Information

The purpose of offering tax-defaulted property at a tax sale is to collect the unpaid taxes (redemption) and to return the property to a revenue-generating status by conveying the property to another owner.

**** Properties offered at tax sale are sold "as is". Purchasers are advised to read all available information and investigate each property they intend to bid on.****

Property Inspection

Tax Sales are a ‘buyer beware’ sale. Prior to purchase, anyone interested in bidding on tax defaulted property should have investigated the exact location, desirability and usefulness of the property. Tax defaulted property cannot be presumed to be buildable or serviced by utilities. Parcels are sold in an "as is condition".  The Tax Collector makes no warranties as to the condition of the property, zoning, permitted uses or legal status of the property, or as to any other matter.  The County is not liable for known or unknown conditions of the property, including, but not limited to, contamination or errors in the Assessor's records pertaining to improvement of the property. Refer to Section 3692.3 of the California Revenue and Taxation Code regarding property conditions sold at tax sale.

Additional information regarding property status and/or permit history may be obtained in the appropriate Planning Department. For unincorporated Marin, please contact the Community Development Agency/Planning Division. For property located in an incorporated town or city, please contact the local Planning Department.

It is the purchaser's responsibility to determine if there are any liens or special assessments which would continue as an obligation against the property following a tax sale. Further, the property may be affected by easements, public purpose dedication and restrictions of record.

Encumbrances (Liens on Property)

Refer to Section 3712 of the California Revenue and Taxation Code for information about encumbrances that remain after title is conveyed through tax deed. Visit the California Legislative Information website and look under California Law for current details.

Parcel Maps

Parcel maps are available for inspection and/or purchase prior to the Public Auction in the Assessor's Office. Parcel maps are also available on the Assessor's website.

Combination of Parcels

Properties grouped are offered together. Should one property within group be redeemed and the taxes on the remaining property or properties within the group remain outstanding, the remaining property or properties will be offered at tax sale. The minimum bid for the group is the combined minimum bids for each tax defaulted parcel in the group.

Mobile Homes

If a parcel offered for sale has a mobile home on it, the sale is for the real property only and does not include the mobile home. Mobile homes are considered personal property, unless they are on a permanent foundation.

Code Violation

Code Violations may be outstanding on one or more parcels offered for sale. The tax default sale does not postpone or affect any enforcement procedures to bring the property into code compliance.

Contaminated Parcels

Parcels offered for sale may contain hazardous wastes, toxic substances, or other substances regulated by federal, state, and local agencies. The County does not assume any responsibility, implied or otherwise, that the parcels are in compliance with federal, state, or local laws governing such substances. The County does not assume any responsibility, implied or otherwise, for any costs or liability of any kind imposed upon or voluntarily assumed by a purchaser or any other owner to remediate, clean up, or otherwise bring into compliance according to federal, state, or local environmental laws on any parcel purchased. The Tax Collector shall not have any duty to investigate the status of any parcel with regard to contamination by environmentally hazardous materials. Known contaminated properties are announced at the tax sale prior to being offered.

DO NOT bid on properties unless you understand the issues related to contaminated properties. Prior to bidding, you should contact your attorney regarding the possible purchase of contaminated properties.

Minimum Bid

The minimum bid price for a tax-defaulted parcel shall be no less than the total amount necessary to redeem the parcel, an estimate of the current year taxes (if billed) and costs.

Tender Types Accepted

Bank statements showing the available funds, letters of credit, loan approval letters, and/or account balance certificates from the bank are NOT accepted as proof of certified funds.

Sealed Bid Tax Sale: Certified funds only (e.g., cashier's checks, money orders, and/or certified checks).

Live Public Auction: Cash, money orders, cashier's checks, and/or certified checks from a financial institution for the minimum bid are accepted. Thereafter, the balance may be paid by personal check. If payment by personal check does not clear the bank, the minimum bid will be forfeit and legal action may be taken to recover the remaining bid amount.


Bidders are required to conduct any research of due diligence they wish prior to submitting a bid. A bid is an irrevocable offer to purchase a property. A bid accepted is a binding contract. A bidder is legally and financially responsible for all properties bid upon whether representing one’s self or acting as an agent.

Bidding will be in increments of $100 or higher until the parcel is sold to the highest bidder. No bid will be accepted for less than the minimum bid amount.

The Assessor's parcel number, situs, and minimum bid will be displayed for each item.

Successful Bid

All sales are final. Legal action will be taken if any successful bid is not settled. The bidder's deposit, if any, will be forfeited if settlement is not completed by the payment deadline and bidder will be banned from future Tax Sales.

Payment in Full

Successful bidders must settle their purchase at time of purchase. Additional fees collected at time of purchase are:

  • Documentary Transfer Tax will be collected in addition to the amount of the bid at the rate of $0.55 per $500 of the sales price.
  • Transfer Tax at the rate of $1.10 per thousand except in the City of San Rafael where the rate is $3.10 per thousand will be charged in addition to the successful bid price.

Tax Deed

A tax deed will be issued to the purchaser within 60 days of the Tax Default Sale. Should title to the property purchased be recorded incorrectly due to the purchaser, the County will not be responsible to correct the title.

Excess Proceeds

If a property is sold at tax default sale, the former owners and lien holders of the property have the right to claim proceeds remaining in excess of property taxes, assessment liens and costs of sale. To claim the excess proceeds, you must be a "party of interest" as defined by Section 4675 of the Revenue and Taxation Code.

Title Insurance

The former assessee or any lien holder has one year from the date of recording of the tax deed to challenge the validity of the Tax Sale (RTC §177 and §3725). During this one-year challenge period, it may not be possible to obtain a guaranty of clear title from a title company. Title companies may not issue their policy of title insurance on property that was purchased through a tax-defaulted land sale, unless a quiet title action has been successfully pursued in the courts, or in lieu thereof, quit claim deeds are acquired from the former assessee or every lien holder. To learn more about quiet title actions, you may consult with an attorney experienced in real estate transactions.

If you have questions concerning redemption, the proposed sale of tax defaulted property, or the right to claim excess proceeds, call our office at (415) 473-6133.

Public Auction

Anyone, with the exception of Marin County Department of Finance employees, can participate in a tax default public auction.

Next Scheduled Public Auction

Currently, no tax default public auction is scheduled.




Candidate List





To view Assessor's Parcel Maps online:  Assessor Maps

Previous Public Auctions:

Questions: Contact the Tax Collector's Office at (415) 473-6909. Questions should be asked prior to the auction date.

Sealed Bid Sales

A sealed bid sale may be conducted when the tax-defaulted property is unusable by virtue of its size, location, or other conditions. Participation in a sealed bid sale for each tax defaulted parcel is limited to eligible individuals or entities that meet one of the following conditions:

  • Land owned by the individual or entity is contiguous to the tax defaulted property being sold; and/or
  • Individual or entity is the holder of record of either an undivided interest, a predominant easement, or a right-of-way easement specific to the tax defaulted property.

Next Scheduled Sealed Bid Sale:




Candidate List



To view Assessor's Parcel Maps online:  Assessor Maps

Previous Sealed Bid Sales:

Important:  As a condition of sale, a successful bidder is required to request the planning director and the assessor to combine the purchased property with his or her current contiguous parcel, when possible. This process may require an additional fee established by the planning director and/or county assessor.

Terms & Conditions of Sealed Bid Tax Sales:

Carefully read the terms and conditions of a sealed bid tax sale. If a bid is not properly submitted, it may be rejected.

All bids to purchase shall be submitted on a form issued by the Marin County Tax Collector's office. The bids shall be presented in a sealed envelope plainly marked with the item number indicated on the notice of sealed bid tax sale. In the case of a Combination Sale, include each Item Number.

If the bid form is not signed by the bidder, the bid will be rejected. If the sealed envelope is opened prior to the sale because of improper marking, the bid may be disqualified.

Do not mail currency. All signed bids shall be accompanied by certified funds (e.g., cashier's check, certified check, or money order) payable to the Marin County Tax Collector. The bid amount must include an amount sufficient to cover the cost of a monument fee (if applicable) and the documentary transfer tax based on the amount bid. A $10.00 monument fee is charged when a parcel’s legal description is not completed in entirety in Lot & Block format. Conversely, the documentary transfer tax is calculated on the rate of $.55 for each $500 or fractional part of each $500 when such bid exceeds $100. Assistance in determining the proper amount of this tax may be obtained from the county recorder's office at (415) 473-6092. The following table indicates the amounts required.

Amount of Bid

Increase It by Another


Documentary Transfer Tax

$0.00 to 100.00



100.01 to 500.00



500.01 to 1,000.00



1,000.01 to 1,500.00



1,500.01 to 2,000.00, etc.



The successful bidder will receive written notice that his/her bid has been accepted.  All other bidders shall have their remittances returned to them after the date of the bid opening.

In the event that two or more high bids equal in amount are submitted, the sale, at the option of the tax collector, may be canceled or extended.  If the sale is extended, only those bidders who submitted the high bids in equal amounts at the original sale will be provided with forms on which they may submit revised sealed bids to be opened on a date and time set by the tax collector. The minimum acceptable bid at the extended sale shall be the amount of the high bid at the original sale.

Section 3692, California Revenue and Taxation Code, prescribes the conditions under which real property and/or oil, gas, or mineral rights may be offered under a sealed bid sale.

The tax collector further reserves the right to reject any and all bids and to cancel the sealed bid sale at any time prior to recordation of the tax deed. In the event of cancellation of the sale and/or rejection of any bids, the respective deposits shall be refunded without interest. Any offers shall remain in effect for 30 days or until notice is given pursuant to §3702, whichever is later.

The right, title, and interest in the property to be sold shall not exceed that vested in the current owner which is subject to the tax collector's power to sell. This sale is subject to title exceptions and reservation, recorded and/or unrecorded. The successful purchaser may obtain a policy of title insurance at his or her own expense.

Should the successful purchaser desire a survey of the property, this must be accomplished at the purchaser's own initiative and expense. No warranty is made by the county relative to the ground location of property lines. Neither the tax collector nor the county guarantees the condition of the property, nor do they assume any responsibility for the conformance to codes or permit regulations required by local governing agencies. The property will be sold on an "as is" basis (§3692.3).


Questions: Contact the Tax Collector's Office at (415) 473-6909. Questions should be asked prior to the sale date.

Agreement Sales

Chapter 8 of Part 6 of Division 1 of the California Revenue and Taxation Code allows public agencies, taxing agencies and eligible nonprofit organizations to enter into an agreement to purchase tax-defaulted property by either submitting a request to purchase or by objecting to the sale of properties scheduled for public and/or sealed auction(s).

Public agencies and taxing agencies may use a property for any purpose that is not otherwise prohibited by local planning and land use regulations.

Nonprofit organizations, if purchasing residential properties, may purchase only substandard properties and, after rehabilitation, must sell to, rent to or otherwise use the properties to serve the needs of low-income persons. Nonprofit organizations that purchase vacant land must meet the same objectives or may dedicate the land for public use.

Questions: Contact the Tax Collector's Office at (415) 473-6909.

Tax Sales Excess Proceeds

Excess proceeds exist when the price paid at tax sale exceeds the minimum bid (taxes, fees, and interest owed to the County and taxing agencies). Excess proceeds are held by the County for a period of one year, to allow for notification of, and application for excess proceeds by, lienholders, creditors, and other persons of interest. Distribution of excess proceeds is made in accordance with Part 8, Chapter 1.3 of the California Revenue and Taxation Code, which outlines the process and requirements regarding the distribution of proceeds from the sale of tax-deeded property. If you believe that you have a claim for excess proceeds on a property sold by the Marin County Tax Collector, please contact our office at (415) 473-6133 or by email to

Frequently Asked Questions

Click on a question to see the answer, or Open All Questions.

  • When does the right to redeem a tax-defaulted parcel subject to the power to sell cease?

    The right ceases at the close of business on the last business day prior to the tax default sale.

  • How is the minimum sale price for a tax sale determined?

    State law dictates that the minimum sale price for a tax-defaulted parcel offered at a tax sale shall be no less than the total amount necessary to redeem the parcel plus costs. The minimum bid may be set at a greater amount at the tax collector's discretion.

  • Can I obtain a property available at the tax sale by paying the delinquent taxes prior to the tax sale date?

    No. Legal title to tax-defaulted property subject to the tax collector's power to sell can be obtained only by becoming the successful bidder at the county tax sale.

  • How do I find or see a property I would like to bid on at the tax sale?

    While we try to give all possible assistance in helping prospective purchasers pinpoint a property location, vacant land has no address and must be determined through the use of county assessor plat maps and perhaps, a map book. Exact boundary lines of a property can be determined only by a survey of the property initiated at the purchaser's expense.

  • How can I determine what use I can make of a tax sale property before I purchase it?

    Consult the zoning division of any city within which a property lies or the zoning division (Marin County’s Community Development Agency) for a parcel in an unincorporated area (not within a city boundary). Examine the county recorder's records for any recorded easements on a property. A title search report can be sought from a local title insurance company at the requestor's expense.

  • Is the tax sale publicly advertised?

    The public auction notice is published three times in successive seven-day intervals before the tax sale date in the local newspaper.

  • How will title in the deed of the purchased be vested?

    Title is vested in the name of the actual purchaser. If title is to be vested differently, we require a notarized letter from the individual for whom you are acting as an agent, stating the manner in which title is to be vested.

  • Do liens or encumbrances on a tax-defaulted property transfer to the new owner after purchase of the property at a tax sale?

    Pursuant to Section 3712 of the Revenue and Taxation Code, the tax deed conveys title to the purchaser free of all encumbrances of any kind existing before the sale, except:

    1. Any lien for installments of taxes and special assessments, that installments will become payable upon the secured roll after the time of the sale.
    2. The lien for taxes or assessments or other rights of any taxing agency that does not consent to the sale under this chapter. (Section 3712)
    3. Liens for special assessments levied upon the property conveyed that were, at the time of the sale under this chapter, not included in the amount necessary to redeem the tax-defaulted property, and, where a taxing agency that collects its own taxes has consented to the sale under this chapter, not included in the amount required to redeem from sale to the taxing agency.
    4. Easements of any kind, including prescriptive, constituting servitudes upon or burdens to the property; water rights, the record title to which is held separately from the title to the property; and restrictions of record.
    5. Unaccepted, recorded, irrevocable offers of dedication of the property to the public or a public entity for a public purpose, and recorded options of any taxing agency to purchase the property or any interest therein for a public purpose.
    6. Unpaid assessments under the Improvement Bond Act of 1915 (Division 10 (commencing with Section 8500) of the Streets and Highways Code) that are not satisfied as a result of the sale proceeds being applied pursuant to Chapter 1.3 (commencing with Section 4671) of Part 8, or that are being collected through a foreclosure action pursuant to Part 14 (commencing with Section 8830) of Division 10 of the Streets and Highways Code. A sale pursuant to this chapter shall not nullify, eliminate, or reduce the amount of a foreclosure judgment pursuant to Part 14 (commencing with Section 8830) of Division 10 of the Streets and Highways Code.
    7. Any federal Internal Revenue Service liens that, pursuant to provisions of federal law, are not discharged by the sale, even though the tax collector has provided proper notice to the Internal Revenue Service before that date.
    8. Unpaid special taxes under the Mello-Roos Community Facilities Act of 1982 (Chapter 2.5 (commencing with Section 53311) of Part 1 of Division 2 of Title 5 of the Government Code) that are not satisfied as a result of the sale proceeds being applied pursuant to Chapter 1.3 (commencing with Section 4671) of Part 8, or that are being collected through a foreclosure action pursuant to Section 53356.1 of the Government Code. A sale pursuant to this chapter shall not nullify, eliminate, or reduce the amount of a foreclosure judgment pursuant to Section 53356.1 of the Government Code.
  • Can I mail in or submit a sealed bid for a property in the public auction?

    No. A live public auction requires the bidder to be present in order to bid on properties. An online public auction requires payment within the online auction platform.

  • How does a bidder pay for property at the tax sale?

    Payment must be made in cash (live public auction only), cashier's check, certified check or money order for the minimum bid. Thereafter, the balance may be paid by personal check. If a check does not clear the bank, the minimum bid will be forfeit and legal action may be taken to recover the remaining bid amount.

  • How soon can I take possession of a property after my purchase at the tax sale?

    Generally, the successful bidder may take possession of a property after making payment in full and complying with any conditions set forth by the tax collector. You should consult an attorney for information regarding possession. Most title companies will not insure title on properties sold at a public auction for at least one (1) year after the tax deed has been recorded. Legal action to challenge a tax sale must be commenced within one (1) year of the tax recording date.

  • What steps should I take if there are occupants living on the property or personal property left on the premises?

    This is a civil matter that could involve eviction proceedings or a disposition of personal belongings. You may wish to seek private legal advice.

  • What happens if I am the successful bidder but decide that I don't want the property after all?

    Be sure you want the property before you bid. ALL SALES ARE FINAL AND THERE ARE ABSOLUTELY NO REFUNDS. If you default, under California State Law, the county cannot resort to the second highest bidder and will be required to take legal action against you. Failure to consummate the sale within the specified time shall result in the forfeiture of any deposit made and all rights that the purchaser may have had with respect to the property. Failure to consummate the sale will also bar the bidder form participating in future tax sales in Marin County for up to five years.


Public Notices

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