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Judges uphold sale of properties in tax sale

July 3, 2013

The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the denial of a property owner’s motion for relief from judgment after his two parcels were sold in a Marion County tax sale. The man argued the notices sent by officials didn’t comply with statutory requirements and he was denied due process.

In Booker T. Prince, Jr. v. Marion County Auditor and Marion County Treasurer, 49A02-1210-MI-835, Booker Prince owned adjoining parcels of land in Indianapolis: An apartment building was located on one parcel and a parking lot on the other. He relocated to California and provided the Marion County auditor with a post office box in California for correspondence. He also had an office in the apartment building but did not give the auditor the unit or number.

After Prince failed to pay taxes, in 2010 the auditor sent the notice of the tax sale, the notice of the right of redemption, and the notice of petition for tax deed to the apartment building, to Prince’s California post office box via certified mail and to Prince’s California post office box via first class mail. All of the notices sent to the apartment building were returned to the auditor indicating that the property was vacant. However, Prince received the notice of tax sale that was sent to his post office box via certified mail. None of the notices that the auditor sent to Prince’s post office box via first class mail were returned to the auditor.

Prince filed his motion for relief from judgment after learning from his apartment manager that people arrived at the building claiming to be the new owners. The trial court found the auditor’s efforts to notify Prince of the sale, redemption period and issuance of the tax deed were constitutionally and statutorily sufficient.

The government officials conceded that the application for judgment filed with the court lacked the dates of mailing of the pre-sale notice and the dates of publication for the parcels at issue. But the Court of Appeals concluded the officials nonetheless provided Prince with notice of the sale. He signed for the certified copy of the notice and admits to owing back taxes.

“While it would have been better for the court to require the officials to provide all of the information set forth in Indiana Code section 6-1.1-24-4.6(b), there is sufficient evidence to support the trial court’s findings and conclusions that the application substantially complied with the statutory requirements,” Senior Judge John Sharpnack wrote.

The appeals court also found the auditor substantially complied with the statutes governing notices and the manner of service the auditor chose was reasonably calculated under the circumstances to apprise Prince of the pendency of the action and allow him a chance to object.

 

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