The Indiana Supreme Court upheld 20 years of precedent in finding that a county auditor is obligated to notify a mortgage holder of an impending property sale only when that mortgage holder specifically requests a notice.
In M&M Investment Group, LLC v. Ahlemeyer Farms, Inc. and Monroe Bank, 03S04-1211-CC-645, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court and remanded. It ruled the requirement in Indiana Code 6-1.1-24.3(b) that a mortgage holder annually request a notice of a tax sale does not violate the 14th Amendment’s due process clause.
Monroe Bank, the mortgagee of the Ahlemeyer Farms, did not know the property was included in the Bartholomew County tax sale until after the buyer, M&M Investment, notified the bank.
Challenging the sale, the bank argued the statute mandating the mortgagee first request a notice of a tax sale before the county is required to provide a copy violates the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The bank asserted that under Jones v. Flowers, 547 U.S. 220 (2006) and Mennonite Bd. Of Missions v. Adams, 462 U.S. 791 (1983), due process requires the government to provide pre-tax sale notice by mail or personal service regardless of whether the mortgagee has requested it or not.
The Supreme Court was not persuaded to overturn two decades of precedent. The court did not want the state to take additional burdensome steps. It also questioned whether obligating the state to do more would be beneficial in today’s era of mortgaged-backed securities and trading.
Writing for the court, Justice Steven David held, “…Monroe Bank’s apparent alternative – that a county auditor be required to comb the files of the recorder’s office to see if a mortgage is recorded for a tax-delinquent property, assess whether the mortgage is still valid, and then determine whether the mortgage accurately reflects the mortgagee’s identity and address – remains unnecessary for two reasons: it would unreasonably tip the scales of our analysis by imposing too great a burden on the State, and the burdens this approach would impose would not result in a greater likelihood of successful notification.”