Public Auction of Tax-Defaulted Property

Who can use this service?

Anyone who is at least 18 years of age is eligible to bid, with exception of employees of the San Luis Obispo County Auditor-Controller-Treasurer-Tax Collector.

Is there a charge for this service?

There is no charge to participate in the auction, but the winning bidder must submit payment in full to the San Luis Obispo County Tax Collector within 72 hours after the end of the sale. Payment must be by cashier's check, wire transfer, or cash. Payment instructions will be provided to the winning bidder upon completion of the auction.

What is the process?

Step 1: Read the Terms and Conditions and Bidder Instructions

Read Terms and Conditions and Bidder Instructions for the auction.

Step 2: Review List of Properties Scheduled for Auction

Step 3: Research the Property

Investigate prior to bidding. All properties are sold "as is". There are no guarantees pertaining to the condition of the properties for sale, including but not limited to access, water, soil, zoning, or permit availability. It is the bidder's responsibility to research the properties in which they are interested. Lack of adequate research may result in the purchase of unusable property, with no entitlement to a refund.

Step 4: Register to Bid

Create an account on the internet auction website at

Step 5: Auction Dates

The Internet Public Auction of Tax-Defaulted Properties begins at 8:00 a.m. PDT on Friday, May 15, 2020. The auctions close in staggered groups beginning at approximately 9:00 a.m. PDT on Monday, May 18, 2020. 

When and where is this service offered?

The list of available properties for the current auction is available in February of each year. The auction is held in May of each year and the results are posted after the auction is closed.

San Luis Obispo County does not hold "in-person" public auctions.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often are public auctions held?

An Internet Auction of tax-defaulted properties is typically conducted once a year in May. A "re-offer" of properties that remain unsold may be held in June, at the Tax Collector's discretion.

The law requires that a public auction, either "in-person" or "internet," be held at least once every four years.

Currently, San Luis Obispo County does not hold "in-person" public auctions.

Are sales of tax-defaulted properties publicly advertised?

Yes. State law dictates that a notice must be published once a week for three (3) successive weeks beginning approximately one (1) month prior to the start of the auction in a newspaper of general circulation published in the County. Advertisements may also appear on the radio or on the Internet.

How can I obtain a list of properties which will be offered for sale at public auction?

After the Public Auction is approved, the list of available properties is posted on the Tax Collector's website. View a list of the properties online. A list can also be requested by email or by calling the County Tax Collector's Office, Redemption Division at (805) 781-5836.

Can I obtain property scheduled for auction by paying the delinquent taxes prior to the auction date?

No. Legal title to a tax-defaulted property subject to the Tax Collector's Power to Sell can be obtained only by becoming the winning bidder at the public auction. Paying the taxes prior to the auction will redeem the property for the assessed owner.

Does the County sell Tax Lien Certificates?

No. The County of San Luis Obispo does not sell Tax Lien Certificates.

When is the last day the property owner may redeem a tax-defaulted property to prevent its sale at public auction?

The right to redeem a tax-defaulted property subject to the Power to Sell ceases at the close of business on the last business day prior to the auction. The right to redeem revives if the property does not sell at the public auction.

How do I find or see property on which I want to bid at the auction?

Improved properties frequently will have a "situs" (street) address, making it easier to determine its general location. Note: the Assessor's “situs” address is usually, but not always, the same as the street address. However, vacant land, which accounts for most properties offered at auction, usually has no address. The approximate location of any parcel can be determined by parcel maps obtainable through the County Assessor's Office, at (805) 781-5643. Exact boundary lines of a property can be determined only by a survey of the property, initiated at the prospective purchaser's expense.

San Luis Obispo County's Department of Planning & Building offers a helpful service for parcel research at its Land Use View  website. Land Use View (formerly LUView) can be used to explore property information and view maps for researching parcels.

How can I determine what use I can make of an auction property before I purchase it?

The Tax Collector does not guarantee access or use of any parcel. Prospective purchasers should conduct an appropriate review to determine property use and value before bidding. This review may include, but is not limited to, 1) consulting with the zoning department of the city or the zoning section of the County Department of Planning and Building, 2) examining the County Recorder’s records for any recorded easements on the property, 3) viewing the property.

Who qualifies as a potential bidder at public auction?

Internet Public Auction:

All bidders must be at least 18 years of age. For more information, visit the Bidder Instruction page.

How is the minimum bid amount determined?

When a property first becomes eligible for public auction, the minimum bid cannot be less than the total amount to pay prior and current year taxes on the property, plus costs associated with offering the parcel for auction. If any property is not sold due to lack of interested bidders, the minimum bid for those particular properties may be reduced at a subsequent auction.

How and when does the successful bidder pay for a property at the auction?

Internet Public Auction:
Payment must be in the form of cash (do not mail), cashier's check, or wire transfer and must be received by the Tax Collector within 72 hours of the close of auction.

Do liens or encumbrances on tax-defaulted property transfer to the new owner after the purchase of the property at public auction?

Section 3712 of the California Revenue and Taxation Code states in relevant part:

Title conveyed. The deed conveys title to the purchaser free of all encumbrances of any kind existing before the sale, except:

(a) Any lien for installments of taxes and special assessments, which installments will become payable upon the secured roll after the time of the sale.

(b) The lien for taxes or assessments or other rights of any taxing agency which does not consent to the sale under this chapter.

(c) Liens for special assessments levied upon the property conveyed which were, at the time of the sale under this chapter, not included in the amount necessary to redeem the tax-defaulted property.

(d) Easements 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.

(e) 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.

(f) Unpaid assessments under the Improvement Bond Act of 1915 (Division 10 (commencing with Section 8500) of the Streets and Highways Code) which are not satisfied as a result of the sale of proceeds being applied pursuant to Chapter 1.3 (commencing with Section 4671) of Part 8.

(g) Any Federal Internal Revenue Service liens which, 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.

Are there any guarantees which accompany property acquired at public auction?

No. All parcels sold at public auction are sold "as is." No warranty is expressed or implied in any manner regarding property sold at the public auction, including, but not limited to, the following: no claims are made to guarantee access to, or building permits for, any of the parcels involved in the auction. Prior to bidding, it is the bidder’s responsibility to adequately research properties to know what is being purchased. Lack of adequate research may result in the purchase of unusable property, with no entitlement to a refund.

Be sure you want the property before you bid. THERE ARE ABSOLUTELY NO REFUNDS. If you renege on your winning bid, under California State Law the County cannot grant the property to the second highest bidder and may take legal action against you. Failure to consummate the sale within the specified time shall result in forfeiture of the deposit (if any) and all rights that the purchaser may have had with respect to the property. Failure to consummate the sale will also bar the bidder from participating in future public auctions for San Luis Obispo County.

BEWARE: Per Revenue and Taxation Code, the validity of the tax sale may be challenged within one year after the execution of the Tax Collector's Deed Upon Sale. During this one-year challenge period, it may not be possible to obtain clear title from a title company. Occasionally, a quiet title action is necessary if there has been an irregularity in the title prior to the tax sale. In the event the sale is successfully overturned, the sale price would be returned to the purchaser, but any improvements made to the property post-sale would not be reimbursed to the person who made them.

In addition, if the property purchased has an Internal Revenue Service lien against it, the IRS has the right to claim the property and reimburse the winning bidder for the full purchase price for up to 120 days after the date of the public auction. Unlike most other liens, IRS and other federal tax liens may not be extinguished by the Tax Collector's Deed Upon Sale.

How will title to the property be vested?

The winning bidder will have the opportunity to choose how title will be vested on the Tax Collector's Deed Upon Sale. Instructions will be provided.

How soon can I take possession of a property after my purchase at the public auction?

The winning bidder may take possession of a property immediately upon receipt of payment in full and the recording of the tax sale deed. However, the validity of the Tax Collector's deed to the purchaser may be challenged within one year after the execution of the deed. In addition, if the property purchased has an IRS lien on it, the Internal Revenue Service has the right to redeem the property from the purchaser for up to 120 days from the date of the public auction.

Second Installments of 2019/20 Annual Secured Property Tax Bills are due as of February 1st. 

The second installment of the 2019/20 Annual Secured Property Tax Bill is due February 1st and will become delinquent if not paid on or before April 10th. 

Please contact the Tax Collector at [email protected] or (805) 781-5831 if you have questions about your tax bill. 

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