The Massachusetts closing attorney is responsible for verifying the correct amount of real estate taxes assessed against the property, collecting sufficient amounts to pay for any outstanding and/or upcoming tax bills, and to adjust between buyer and seller any payments already made by the seller. The way in which Massachusetts real estate tax bills are due and payable, however, often creates confusion for parties at the closing.
For most Massachusetts cities and towns, real estate tax bills are mailed and taxes are collected on a quarterly basis. The fiscal year for property tax is July 1 to June 30. The schedule of mailings, due dates, and the three months each payment covers is outlined on the following chart:
|Quarter||Mailed By||Due Date||Payment is For|
|1st||June 30||Aug 1||July, Aug. Sept.|
|2d||Sept. 30||Nov. 1||Oct., Nov, Dec.|
|3rd||Dec. 31||Feb. 1||Jan, Feb., March|
|4th||March 31||May 1||April, May, June|
The confusion is caused because most folks are not aware that the tax bill which is due on Aug. 1 covers taxes due for the preceding month of July and the following month of September.
So, if you are closing on March 1 and the seller has already paid the tax bill due on Feb. 1, the buyer will be responsible for an adjustment due the seller for the 31 days of March.
Now, here’s the kicker. As part of the mortgage escrow account requirement, explained below, the lender will most likely require the borrower to pay the real estate taxes due May 1 in advance, thereby requiring the borrower to bring a lot more to closing than he or she was expecting. The lender wants to ensure that all real estate taxes are paid in advance so no tax lien gets filed on the property. This is very common, but not often explained by the loan officer ahead of time, thereby falling on the closing attorney to break the “bad news.”
All lenders are now requiring that borrowers establish an escrow account for the payment of real estate taxes, homeowner’s insurance, and mortgage insurance (if lower than 20% down payment). The escrow account is like an insurance policy to ensure that real estate taxes, insurance and PMI is paid by the homeowner. The escrow account will typically be funded with up to 3-4 months of payments in advance, paid at closing. Some lenders will allow for a waiver of the escrow account, but often with an increase in the interest rate.