Monday, May 21, 2012

tax sale - "proof of mailing"

Horton v. Washington Co. Tax Claim Bureau - Cmwlth. Court - May 21, 2012

Section 602 of the Real Estate Tax Sale Law, 72 P.S. §5860.602(e)(2), requires that notice of a scheduled tax sale be provided by three separate methods: publication at least thirty days prior to sale; notification by certified mail at least thirty days prior to sale; and posting on the property at least ten days prior to sale. 72 P.S. §5860.602(a), (e).

With respect to the notice by certified mail, the statute also states that if a return receipt is not received from the property owner, "then, at least ten (10) days before the date of the sale, similar notice of the sale shall be given to each owner who failed to acknowledge the first notice by United States first class mail, proof of mailing, at his last known post office address…." Section 602(e)(2) of the Law, 72 P.S. §5850.602(e)(2) (emphasis added).

Consistent with the decision in In Re: York County Tax Claim Bureau Donalynn Properties, Inc. v. York County Tax Claim Bureau, 3 A.3d 765 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2010), the court held that the "proof of mailing" requirement in section 602(e)(2) of the Law can only be satisfied by the use of a USPS certificate of mailing, also known as USPS Form 3817.

The holding in York County is based on

- the statutory language in the context of the Law’s other notice provisions. The Court observed that all other types of mailing specified in the statute are USPS services and that the phrase "proof of mailing" immediately follows "United States first class mail," which is exclusively USPS terminology. Based on the plain language alone, the Court concluded that the legislature intended "proof of mailing" to mean a USPS form and determined that the only official record providing that proof was a USPS certificate of mailing.

- a need for statewide uniformity with respect to the ten-day notice, which is the final notice sent to a property owner before a tax upset sale.

- the minimal burden that requiring a USPS certificate of mailing imposes on county tax bureaus.