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Tax sale petitions OK because of lack of notice

December 15, 2008

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a woman in two separate cases involving the purchase of her property at tax sales in Franklin County after determining she received insufficient notice of the sales.

In both of the cases - Kimberly Neace v. Vinod C. Gupta, No. 24A01-0806-CV-255, and Kenneth Edwards v. Kimberly Neace, No. 24A04-0807-CV-401 - Neace had appealed the sale of parcels of property to Vinod Gupta and Kenneth Edwards. The Franklin County Auditor's office had an incorrect address listed for Neace, causing the pre-sale and post-sale notices of the tax sales and the petition for a tax deed to be returned as unclaimed or undeliverable.

The tax sale occurred in September 2005, and the tax deeds were ordered in January 2007 in both sales. Neace didn't learn of the sales until April 2007 and petitioned the court to set aside the sales, alleging she didn't receive notice.

In Neace v. Gupta, the trial court granted Gupta's motion to dismiss her petition. The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed, ruling that although there is a 60-day statutory limit to appeal the order to issue a tax deed, an exception may be made when the petition for relief from judgment alleges the tax deed is void due to inadequate notice, wrote Judge Nancy Vaidik, who authored both opinions. The exception allows for an appeal to be brought under insufficient notice within a reasonable time frame. The appellate court had previously found a delay of more than four months to be reasonable in the case Diversified Investments v. U.S. Bank, NA, 838, N.E.2d 536, 544 (Ind. Ct. App. 2006). The Court of Appeals remanded for the trial court to hold the evidentiary hearing provided for by Ind. Trial Rule 60(D).

In Edwards v. Neace, Edwards appealed the trial court denial of his motion to correct errors after the court set aside the tax deed issued to him. Edwards argued the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Neace's petition since she filed it after the 60-day time limit. However, because Neace alleges insufficient notice of the sale and order to issue the tax deed, the trial court did have subject matter jurisdiction over her petition, wrote Judge Vaidik.

When notices are returned as undeliverable, further, practical action must be taken to attempt to notify an interested party of tax sale proceedings, she wrote.

The county auditor should have been aware there was a discrepancy in Neace's record since the "property address" was listed in Ohio and not in Indiana. Neither Edwards nor the auditor sent notice to her address of record instead of the property address, making the notices constitutionally insufficient, she wrote.

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