(1) On the day and approximately at the time designated in the notice of the sale, the tax collector shall commence the sale of tax certificates on the real property on which taxes have not been paid. The tax collector shall continue the sale from day to day until each certificate is sold to pay the taxes, interest, costs, and charges on the parcel described in the certificate. The tax collector shall offer all certificates on the property as they are listed on the tax roll. The tax collector may conduct the sale of tax certificates for unpaid taxes pursuant to this section by electronic means, which may allow for proxy bidding. Such electronic means must comply with the procedures provided in this chapter. A tax collector who chooses to conduct such electronic sales may receive electronic deposits and payments related to the tax certificate sale.
(2) A lien created through the sale of a tax certificate may not be enforced in any manner except as prescribed in this chapter.
(3) If the taxes on a real property and all interest, costs, and charges are paid before a tax certificate is awarded to a buyer or struck to the county, the tax collector may not issue the tax certificate. After a tax certificate is awarded to a buyer or struck to the county, the delinquent taxes, interest, costs, and charges are paid by the redemption of the tax certificate.
(4) A tax certificate representing less than $250 in delinquent taxes on property that has been granted a homestead exemption for the year in which the delinquent taxes were assessed may not be sold at public auction or by electronic sale as provided in subsection (1) but must be issued by the tax collector to the county at the maximum rate of interest allowed. The provisions of s. 197.4725 or s. 197.502(3) may not be invoked if the homestead exemption is granted to the person who received the homestead exemption for the year in which the tax certificate was issued. However, if all such tax certificates and accrued interest represent an amount of $250 or more, s. 197.502(3) shall be used to determine whether the county must apply for a tax deed.
(5) A tax certificate that has not been sold on property for which a tax deed application is pending shall be struck to the county.
(6) Each certificate shall be awarded to the person who will pay the taxes, interest, costs, and charges and will demand the lowest rate of interest, not in excess of the maximum rate of interest allowed by this chapter. The tax collector shall accept bids in even increments and in fractional interest rate bids of one-quarter of 1 percent only. If multiple bidders offer the same lowest rate of interest, the tax collector shall determine the method of selecting the bidder to whom the certificate will be awarded. Acceptable methods include the bid received first or use of a random-number generator. If a certificate is not purchased, the certificate shall be struck to the county at the maximum rate of interest allowed by this chapter.
(7) The tax collector may require payment of a reasonable deposit from any person who wishes to bid for a tax certificate. A person who fails or refuses to pay any bid made by, or on behalf of, such person is not entitled to bid or have any other bid accepted or enforced except as authorized by the tax collector. The tax collector shall provide written or electronic notice when certificates are ready for issuance. Payment must be made within 48 hours after the transmission of the electronic notice by the tax collector or mailing of such notice or, at the tax collector’s discretion, all or a portion of the deposit placed by the bidder may be forfeited. Payment must be made before the issuance of the certificate by the tax collector. If the tax collector determines that payment has been requested in error, the tax collector shall issue a refund within 15 business days after such payment.
(8) Upon the cancellation of a bid:
(a) If the sale has not been adjourned, the tax collector shall reoffer the certificate for sale.
(b) If the sale has been adjourned, the tax collector shall reoffer the certificate at a subsequent sale. Before the subsequent sale, the parcels must be readvertised pursuant to s. 197.402(3).
(9) The tax collector shall maintain records of all the certificates sold for taxes, showing the date of the sale, the number of each certificate, the name of the owner as returned, a description of the property within the certificate, the name of the purchaser, the interest rate bid, and the amount for which sale was made. Such records may be maintained electronically and shall be cited as the “list of tax certificates sold.”
(10) A certificate may not be sold on, and a lien is not created in, property owned by any governmental unit which has become subject to taxation due to lease of the property to a nongovernmental lessee. The delinquent taxes shall be enforced and collected in the manner provided in s. 196.199(8). However, the ad valorem real property taxes levied on a leasehold that is taxed as real property under s. 196.199(2)(b), and for which no rental payments are due under the agreement that created the leasehold or for which payments required under the original leasehold agreement have been waived or prohibited by law before January 1, 1993, must be paid by the lessee. If the taxes are unpaid, the delinquent taxes become a lien on the leasehold and may be collected and enforced under this chapter.
(11) Any tax certificates that are void due to an error of the property appraiser, the tax collector, or the taxing or levying authority and are subsequently canceled, or are corrected or amended pursuant to this chapter or chapter 196, earn interest at the rate of 8 percent per year, simple interest, or the rate of interest bid at the tax certificate sale, whichever is less, calculated monthly from the date the certificate was purchased until the date the tax collector issues the refund. Refunds made on tax certificates that are corrected or void shall be processed pursuant to the procedure set forth in s. 197.182, except that the 4-year time period provided for in s. 197.182(1)(e) does not apply to or bar refunds resulting from correction or cancellation of certificates and release of tax deeds as authorized herein.
(12) The tax collector is entitled to a commission of 5 percent on the amount of the delinquent taxes and interest when a tax certificate is sold. The commission must be included in the face value of the certificate. However, the tax collector is not entitled to a commission for a certificate that is struck to the county until the certificate is redeemed or purchased. If a tax deed is issued to the county, the tax collector may not receive his or her commission until the property is sold and conveyed by the county.
(13) The holder of a tax certificate may not directly, through an agent, or otherwise initiate contact with the owner of property upon which he or she holds a tax certificate to encourage or demand payment until 2 years after April 1 of the year of issuance of the tax certificate.
(14) Any holder of a tax certificate who, prior to the date 2 years after April 1 of the year of issuance of the tax certificate, initiates, or whose agent initiates, contact with the property owner upon which he or she holds a certificate encouraging or demanding payment may be barred by the tax collector from bidding at a tax certificate sale. Unfair or deceptive contact by the holder of a tax certificate to a property owner to obtain payment is an unfair and deceptive trade practice, as referenced in s. 501.204(1), regardless of whether the tax certificate is redeemed. Such unfair or deceptive contact is actionable under ss. 501.2075-501.211. If the property owner later redeems the certificate in reliance on the deceptive or unfair practice, the unfair or deceptive contact is actionable under applicable laws prohibiting fraud.