You owe Philadelphia’s Real Estate Tax if you own a property in the city. The tax is due once a year, on March 31, and is based on your property’s assessed value, which is determined by the Office of Property Assessment (OPA).

Paying this tax on time and in full is important, as it provides funding for the local school district, police, and fire departments, among other essential City services. If you cannot pay your entire bill, you should apply for help. There are several relief programs available to owners who live in their properties, even if you still have a mortgage.

If you don’t qualify for assistance, you should call (215) 686-6442 and ask about setting up a payment plan. We offer a range of options with flexible terms that can help you stay current.

If you wait until your account becomes delinquent, you could lose your property at a tax sale. Keep in mind that tax sales are always a last resort. The Department of Revenue’s main goal is to ensure tax compliance while providing relief to financially distressed households.

How does Real Estate Tax work?

The Department of Revenue sends out property tax bills every December. The bill must be paid in full by March 31 of the following year. Qualifying homeowners can apply for relief to reduce or pay their bills in installments. You can always apply for a standard payment agreement if you don’t qualify for the City’s owner-occupied property tax assistance programs.

If you miss the payment deadline and do nothing, your bill becomes past due and accrues monthly interest and penalties. You’ll receive bills from the Department of Revenue and potentially a collection agency. If you still don’t pay or enroll in a payment plan by December 31, your account becomes delinquent on January 1 of the following year. The City can then put a lien on your property and add legal fees to your account—increasing your debt.

What is a lien?

A lien is a legal claim against a property because of debt owed. Liens are filed by the City against delinquent properties every year or more often for unpaid property taxes and water charges.

Multiple enforcement measures

The City uses tax sales, sequestration, and lawsuits against property owners to collect overdue real estate taxes.

In a tax sale proceeding, the City files a petition with the Court of Common Pleas, seeking to sell your property to recover unpaid taxes. A hearing is then scheduled, and you are served the Petition by the City. Initial hearings in this case are conducted without a judge. The following is what you will receive if you appear at the hearing:

  • A continuance of the case (basically postponing the case),
  • An Owner-Occupied Payment Agreement(OOPA) application to complete (if you’re eligible), and
  • A chance to meet with a housing counselor.

The OOPA program is one of several City-led programs that help Philadelphians pay their old and current property tax bills in monthly installments.

If you fail to appear at the hearing, the City can ask the Court to enter a decree, which is an order allowing the City to sell your property at an auction.

In sequestration, a court-appointed person (or “sequestrator”) collects outstanding property taxes and water charges on the City’s behalf. This person takes possession of your property for a time. They collect rent and pay off delinquent taxes and water charges until all City debts are paid. You will receive a warning letter with payment options or suggestions to enter into a payment agreement before the City places your property under sequestration.

personal lawsuit, against property owners, occurs when the City sues a multi-property owner for overdue taxes. You may face a trial if you fail to pay the taxes you’re sued for.

What can you do to protect your property? 

It’s always best to pay your property taxes on time, when possible. If you cannot afford the full amount of your bill, you should apply for an OOPA or enter into a standard payment agreement.