"Unsecured" tax bill showing up from 2001

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Submitted by burghMan on November 30, 2019 - 9:04am

I own a home in Riverside county that I bought new from a builder in 2004.

Today I went online to pay my property taxes as I always do, and there is a new section on the page showing two "supplemental" assessments from tax year 2001 and 2002. These have never appeared on the tax collector website before and I have never received a bill for them. They were small amounts back in 2001 ($162 and $11) but it appears that interest and penalties have now accumulated and the total is now $756.

I haven't called the county yet to inquire. I will do that on Monday, but I'm looking for advice on how to proceed.

1) The assessments are from years before I owned the property. Am I still on the hook?

2) They are labeled as "unsecured" and the "normal" property taxes are "secured." I tried to do some reading on the definition of "unsecured" and it is unclear. Can the county put a lien on my property? Does the responsibility to pay transfer to the new owner?

3) Did the escrow company screw up, or was I supposed to know about this tax assessment back in 2004 when I purchased?

4) Can I go after the builder (previous property owner) for not paying?

Thanks for any help!

Submitted by FlyerInHi on November 30, 2019 - 10:50am.

I would contact the developer and tell them.
But not to worry.... ultimately, the title company will take care of it, if needs be. That’s why you bought title insurance.

Submitted by burghMan on December 4, 2019 - 7:46pm.

Thanks for the responses, including the private messages.

I got an email response from the county:

Earlier this year we transitioned to a new property tax system which changed the way taxes appear online. It is important to note that only the way that the data is being displayed has changed.

Previously unsecured bills were not displayed on our website but information could be obtained by calling or visiting one of our offices. Unsecured taxes are not attached to the property, they are simply displayed on the Assessment number where they originated. Property tax bills are separated into Secured Property Tax and Unsecured Property Tax. The Unsecured Property taxes are owed by the person named on the bill and Title Companies do not require unsecured bills to be paid for Title to be clear. Secured Property Taxes are tied to the property and will need to be paid through Escrow when there is an ownership change.

If you are not the owner listed on the unsecured bill, you are not responsible for the bill, however it will show up online as long as there is an amount due. Please let us know if you have any questions.

I don't know whose name is on the bill but I would assume it is the builder that owned the land during construction.

I checked a few of my neighbor's records and it appears every house in the neighborhood has the same bill. There are about a thousand homes in the development so it could add up to quite a big sum. I don't understand why it's unpaid and why the county isn't going after the money, but at least I know it is not my problem.

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