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COA rules in favor of tax sale bidder in dispute over property

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The Indiana Court of Appeals ordered that tax deeds be reinstated and reversed summary judgment and a decree of foreclosure in favor of a bank in a combined appeal over foreclosed property in Elkhart County.

The COA ruled on the two cases in Anthony J. Iemma, et al. v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A. Successor by Merger with Bank One, N.A., 20A03-1207-MF-326. Cause No. 188 deals with Chase Bank’s grant of partial summary judgment and foreclosure of property at 1034 East Jackson Blvd. in Elkhart; Cause No. 41 deals with the setting aside of LRB Holdings’ tax deeds purchased on the same two lots at that address. Anthony and Sandra Iemma entered into a mortgage with Bank One-Merrillville in 1997. The recorded mortgage lists two addresses – one for Bank One-Merrillville in Merrillville; the other under the heading “When recorded mail to:” that was for Bank One-Indianapolis in Indianapolis. Chase Bank became successor-by-merger of Bank One in 2004.

The Iemmas defaulted on the mortgage and did not pay taxes on the property in question. Chase sought to foreclose; LRB as successful bidder at the tax sale, sent notices to Chase through its attorneys on the foreclosure case after the mail sent to Bank One-Merillville was returned as undeliverable. It did not mail notice to the Bank One-Indianapolis address.

LRB appealed the ruling in favor of Chase, arguing the trial court erred in determining the tax deeds should be set aside because LRB failed to comply with statutory notice requirements, due process requirements and statutory property description requirements.

The trial court concluded that LRB was required to send notices to mortgagee Bank One-Merrillville, but also to the bank in Indianapolis. But the mortgage did not indicate that Bank One-Indianapolis was a person with a substantial property interest of public record on the Elkhart property, Judge Rudy Pyle III wrote. As such, LRB had no responsibility under statute to give notice to the Indianapolis office.

The judges found LRB complied with due process requirements by taking the extra step of mailing notice to the attorneys involved in the foreclosure action. The trial court also erred as a matter of law by concluding that the notices were not in substantial compliance with I.C. 6-1.1-25- 4.5.

“In this opinion, we have decided the Cause No. 41 tax sale deed issues in favor of LRB and against Chase Bank. LRB is the owner of the two lots with a common address of 1034 East Jackson Boulevard, Elkhart, IN 46516, and there is no longer any basis for the trial court’s grant of summary judgment and foreclosure in Cause No. 188. Accordingly, the trial court’s order should be set aside,” Pyle wrote.

 

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