Wednesday, August 06, 2008

real property - tax sale - notice

Wallace v. Tax Claim Bureau - Cmwlth. Court - 07-28-08 - UNREPORTED MEM. DECISION

Although decedent's survivors had actual notice of upcoming tax sale, they did not receive required statutory notice under Real Estate Tax Sale Law, 72 P.S. 5860.607(a), so tax sale was set aside.

The notice provisions of the RETSL "are to be strictly construed." "Strict compliance with the notice porvisions is essential to prevent the deprivateion of property without due process."

Here, tax claim bureau knew that there were notice problems. The official notice was returned marked "unclaimed." The sheriff's affidavit of posting noted the the property owner was "deceased." And someone other than the owner signed for a notice. All of this triggered a "statutory obligation to go beyond the notice requirements found in Section 602 of the ERTSL and conduct the additional notification efforts provided in Sectin 607.1," which the tax claim bureau failed to do. The TCB made no "additional notification efforts" that "ordinary common sense business practices would dictate" under the circumstances.

This was not a "techical defect" which could be overlooked in "very narrow circumstances. Failure to comply with the statutory notice requirement was a "substantive deficiency" since appellants "never received official, statutorily required notice of the pending tax far as the appellant was denied the information necessary and the reasonable opportunity to avoid the pending tax sale."