Thursday, February 19, 2015

tax sale - partnership - notice to each partner/owner

Dwyer v. Luzerne Co. Tax Claim Bureau – Cmwlth.Court – February 17, 2015



Commonwealth Court affirmed lower court decision setting aside tax sale of partnership-owned property where Partner/Owner B signed for certified mail notice sent to Partner/Owner A – i.e., no notice delivered separately to non-signing partner A – and no evidence in the record of authority of one to sign for certified mail for the other.


The statutory notice provision of  the Law provides that the Bureau shall give notice of the sale “[a]t least thirty (30) days before the date of the sale, by United States certified mail, restricted delivery, return receipt requested, postage prepaid, to each owner as defined by this act.” 72 P.S. §5860.602(e)(1).


 “Restricted delivery” is mail “delivered only to the addressee or the person he specifically authorizes in writing to receive his restricted delivery mail.” . . . Here, the receipt shows that the certified mail addressed to Owner A was signed for by Owner B. “Even when a return receipt is signed, the signature must belong to someone authorized by the owner to accept certified mail.” . . . .There is nothing in the record evidencing Owner B’s authority to sign for certified mail addressed to Owner A.


Because Owner A did not sign for the certified mail addressed to him, in accordance with section 607.1(a) of the Law, the Bureau was required to further investigate his whereabouts. Specifically, section 607.1(a) of the Law requires reasonable notification efforts when “mailed notification is either returned without the required receipted personal signature of the addressee or under other circumstances raising a significant doubt as to the actual receipt of such notification by the named addressee . . . .” 72 P.S. §5860.607a(a).


Here, the tax claim bureau conceded that although Owner A did not sign for the certified mail addressed to him, the Bureau did not make any effort to discover his whereabouts and notify him. Thus, the trial court properly concluded that the Bureau failed to comply with the Law’s notice provision.




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