Friday, September 06, 2013

municipal liens - burden of proof - strict compliance

City of Philadelphia v. Manu – Cmwlth. Court – Stpember 6, 2013




All lawfully imposed or assessed municipal claims are liens on the property by operation of law….The Municipal Liens Act provides for a specific, detailed and exclusive procedure that must be followed to challenge or collect on a municipal lien placed in cities of first class, such as the City.


Burden of proof

The City had the burden of proving strict compliance with the requirements of the Act. ….In reviewing each of these mandatory steps, it is apparent that there was not even substantial, let alone strict, compliance. The petition neither listed "all tax and municipal claims," nor gave any sense of their magnitude. …. Nonetheless, the City asserts that its actual lien is for $14,702.99 and, presumably, expects to collect at least that amount from the sale if the proceeds are sufficient.


The City had the burden of proving strict compliance with the requirements of the Act. ….In reviewing each of these mandatory steps, it is apparent that there was not even substantial, let alone strict, compliance. The petition neither listed "all tax and municipal claims," nor gave any sense of their magnitude. The only claim listed in the petition is a lien for unpaid water and sewer rents in the amount of $0. Subsequently, the City filed an amended claim for unpaid taxes in the amount of $657.54. Nonetheless, the City asserts that its actual lien is for $14,702.99 and, presumably, expects to collect at least that amount from the sale if the proceeds are sufficient.


Purpose of tax/sheriff's sales

The purpose of sheriff's sales under the Municipal Liens Act, as well as tax sales under the Real Estate Tax Sale Law,…is not to strip the owner of his or her property but to collect municipal claims. ….


Due process requires strict compliance
Strict compliance with the service requirement protects the procedural due process rights of all interested parties to notice and an opportunity to be heard and also guards against deprivation of property without substantive due process of law. ….The collection of claims may not be implemented without due process of law guaranteed by the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions…..


Requirement of a hearing
Similarly, the requirement that the court hold a hearing to determine the accuracy of the facts in the City’s petition is an important due process safeguard. This is particularly true when the City is proceeding under …Municipal Liens Act,,,…where no judgment has been entered on the lien.

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