Thursday, August 07, 2008

real property - tax sale - notice

Citimortgage, Inc. v. KDR Investments - Commonwealth Court - August 5, 2008

Tax sale void because tax claim bureau (TCB) did not give owner required statutory notice. The TCB had attempted to give proper notice to the prior owner, but the new owner (Citimortgage) which had purchased the property at foreclosure sale, clearly did not get proper statutory notice.

proof of three separate notices required -"With respect to tax sales, the Bureau is required to give three separate types of notice: publication at least 30 days prior to the sale; notification to the owner by certified mail at least 30 days prior to the sale; and posting of the property at least ten days prior to the sale....“If any of the three types of notice is defective, the tax sale is void” ....The Bureau bears the burden of proving strict compliance with applicable notice provisions."

due process requires proper notice - "Due process requires that an owner be given notice prior to property being sold at a tax sale. As our Supreme Court has explained: 'Somehow, over the years, taxing authorities have lost sight of the fact that it is a momentous event under the United States and the Pennsylvania Constitutions when a government subjects a citizen’s property to forfeiture for the non-payment of taxes…. The collection of taxes…may not be implemented without due process of law that is guaranteed in the Commonwealth and federal constitutions; and this due process, as we have stated here, requires at a minimum that an owner of land be actually notified by government, if reasonably possible, before his land is forfeited by the state'....Because of these due process concerns, the “[n]otice provisions of the [Tax Sale] Law are to be strictly construed, and there must be strict compliance with such provisions to guard against deprivation of property without due process of law.”

strict compliance with statutory notice provisions required - Section 602(e)(1) of the Tax Sale Law [72 P.S. §5860.692] obligated the Bureau to give notice to the current owner “[a]t least thirty (30) days before the date of the sale, by United States certified mail.” It did not do so. Strict compliance with all notice requirements contained in the Tax Sale Law is an absolute requirement. The Bureau must be able to produce evidence that it gave this notice to the one who owns the property on the day of the tax sale. If the Bureau cannot produce this proof, the tax sale is invalid.