Athens County is expecting to have its first tax lien sale in May or June, according to County Treasurer Bill Bias.

Bias has signed a contract with a company called TAXease. The firm will pay the county the full tax amount owed on the properties chosen for the sale, with the TAXease making its money from interest paid through payment plans the company will set up with delinquent property owners.

Bias estimated that the county is owed more than $9 million in delinquent real estates taxes (including trailer tax), interest and penalties. Not all of that amount would be subject to tax lien sales because TAXease would not want to buy the liens for some properties ? for example, blighted and abandoned homes, a company official has told The Messenger.

Bias said he expects the county will have two or three tax lien sales a year, although the first is expected to be the biggest. A notice was included in this year’s first-half property tax bills telling property owners that delinquent taxes are subject to tax lien sales.

The amount of the first sale has not yet been determined.

“They are working on getting the list together now,” Bias said of the company.

The company and Bias will both send out letters to property owners informing them that their tax debt is being considered for a tax lien sale. Delinquent property owners can avoid the sale by paying the county the taxes, interest and penalties owed. Bias pointed out that taxpayers can set up a payment plan with his office.

Once a lien is sold, the company must wait a year before foreclosing on the property, according to Bias. That gives the property owner time to set up a payment plan with the company.

Past experience has shown that after the warnings of an impending tax lien sale are sent out to property owners, many owners pay their tax bills without the property going through the lien sale, Dawn Hoosier of TAXease has told The Messenger previously.

Once a tax lien sale takes place, the company files a lien on the property, then tries to work out a plan with each property owner to make payments to the company to settle the debt, Hoosier explained.