The way you pay your property taxes depends on your state's laws and on how your mortgage is set up. Some states are set up to let you pay in installments while others let you choose to set up an installment payment system. You can also create your own installment system with a mortgage escrow account or, if you end up in a pinch, usually pay late taxes in installments, although you'll be subject to penalties.
Whether or not you can pay your property taxes in installments depends upon the laws in area in which you live.
Each state sets up its own schedule the property taxes that are typically collected by counties or cities. Florida and Louisiana generally require a single annual payment. California has two payments per year -- due in November and February but not delinquent until December and April, respectively. In Massachusetts, property taxes are due in four quarterly installments. Your community's assessor, tax collector or treasurer can tell you how your your state's system works.
Some states allow you to set up a payment plan for your property taxes. In Florida, you pay quarterly in advance and receive a discount for your earliest payments. However, since you're paying before you have a new tax amount, you may have to make higher payments at the end of the year to catch up to any tax increase.
If you can't pay your property taxes on time, your local assessor usually won't take your property the day they go late. If you call the department, you may be able to work out an after-the-fact payment plan. You'll probably have to pay interest and penalties, but you'll be able to get your property back in compliance and not end up losing it in a tax sale. The time you have to pay your back taxes varies by state, so it's possible that, if you wait too long, you could lose your home.
If you have trouble budgeting for your property tax payments or just don't want to do it, setting up an escrow account with your mortgage provider may be an appropriate choice. With an escrow account, you pay an additional amount every month when you pay your mortgage. That money goes into an account that your mortgage servicer uses to pay your property tax bills and homeowners insurance bills.
While your escrow account generally won't be interest-bearing, it will save you from the hassle of managing your payments yourself. Your servicer will even audit the account yearly and adjust your payment so that are putting enough in if your bills go up.
Steve Lander has been a writer since 1996, with experience in the fields of financial services, real estate and technology. His work has appeared in trade publications such as the "Minnesota Real Estate Journal" and "Minnesota Multi-Housing Association Advocate." Lander holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Columbia University.