CHICAGO (WLS) -- Cook County property owners have until May 3 to pay their overdue property taxes to avoid auction.
"If they don't pay by the deadline, the taxes on their property get sold and there is roughly a two-year-period which is called a redemption period where they can come back in and negotiate with the buyer and pay off the taxes, pay fees and penalties and get the property back," said Maria Pappas, the Cook County Treasurer.
According to the county, more than 39,000 property owners have delinquent bills for Tax Year 2016 that were due last year. Some owners might not even know that they are behind. About 16,000 tax bills have been returned by the U.S. Post Office.
"We are working with all the aldermen. We are working with all the township assessors and what they're doing is they're actually going out and knocking on doors," she said.
Last year the grace period for payment was cut down, catching some people off guard.
"It caused us a lot of trouble because people would rather have a year. In fact, people would rather have a year and a half, which would be a nice idea," said Pappas.
Those who have the money to pay plan to do so before the annual tax sale.
"I get caught like this because Chicago Public Schools aren't the best, so I end up spending all my money to put my three very bright grandchildren through private school," said a homeowner who didn't want to be identified.
If you're unsure if you paid your 2016 property taxes, you can go to the Cook County Treasurer's website and look up your status. You can also make a payment on that website. The tax sale starts May 4.