An Owen Circuit judge erred by granting a Colorado company’s petition to claim surplus funds from the tax sale of property belonging to Ora and Leafie Chambers, the Court of Appeals ruled Thursday. The couple signed an agreement that transferred their right of the surplus funds from the sale of their property to Asset Recovery Inc.
In Auditor of Owen County and Treasurer of Owen County v. Asset Recovery, Inc., 60A01-1212-MI-592, the Owen County auditor and treasurer appealed the trial court’s grant of the company’s petition for release of the surplus funds. The purchaser of the Chamberses’ property paid more than the amount required to fulfill the outstanding tax obligations, resulting in surplus of nearly $7,500. The county officials claimed that Indiana Code 6-1.1-24-7.5 invalidates the bill of sale and assignment issued to Asset Recovery.
Under the agreement, the couple would receive nearly $4,500 and Asset Recovery would receive the remainder of the surplus.
The COA found the agreement to be invalid under the statute because it has the primary purpose of paying compensation to recover money deposited in a tax sale surplus fund with respect to property that has been the subject of a tax sale and requires payment of compensation of more than 10 percent of the amount to be collected from the tax sale surplus fund. Asset Recovery would receive 40 percent of the total amount collected from the surplus fund, but is limited to just 10 percent under the law.
“Moreover, as a matter of public policy, the statute is designed to protect the citizens of our state and to regulate the activities of property locator services whose primary purpose is to locate money deposited in tax sale surplus funds by capping the fees at 10 percent of the total amount collected from the surplus fund,” Senior Judge Betty Barteau wrote. “Certainly, elderly property owners are a particular group of the population to be protected by this statute as their vulnerability is often preyed upon. Therefore, it would be error for us to ignore the spirit and objectives of Indiana Code section 6-1.1-24-7.5 by allowing Asset Recovery to be compensated for the recovery of the funds pursuant to the terms of its agreement with the Chamberses.”