Pro se litigant’s bid to elude HOA fees after tax sale fails on appeal

A man who bought Morgan County properties at a tax sale that were subject to a homeowners association failed to convince the Indiana Court of Appeals on Tuesday that he was wrongly ordered to pay delinquent association dues.

The Painted Hills Association sued Andrew Patrick after he bought three unimproved properties in the community outside Martinsville at a tax sale in 2016. Painted Hills sought to collect from Patrick unpaid association dues for 2017 and 2018. The Morgan Superior Court ruled in favor of Painted Hills, finding Patrick owed $2,624.95, and denied Patrick’s motion to correct error, prompting his appeal.

“The dispositive issue is whether the restrictive covenants survived the tax sale,” Judge L. Mark Bailey wrote for the panel in Andrew Patrick v. Painted Hills Association, Inc.,  19A-SC-936. Representing himself on appeal, Patrick pointed to I.C. 6-1.1-25-4(f), which holds that a tax sale vests a deed “free and clear of all liens and encumbrances created or suffered before or after the tax sale.”

Bailey wrote that Patrick focused on this portion of the statute, but not subsequent text reading, “However, subject to subsection (g), the estate is subject to: (1) all easements, covenants, declarations, and other deed restrictions shown by public records.”

Likewise, Bailey pointed to a separate statute — I.C. § 6-1.1-25-4.6(k) — in which he said the General Assembly provided for survival of restrictive covenants after a tax sale. After a tax sale, this section of code reads, “the estate is subject to all easements, covenants, declarations, and other deed restrictions and laws governing land use, including all zoning restrictions and liens and encumbrances created or suffered by the purchaser at the tax sale.”

“Rather than produce a harmonious statutory scheme, Patrick’s argument on appeal would obviate Indiana Code Section 6-1.1-25-4.6(k),” Bailey wrote for the panel, which concluded, “The statutes are unambiguous. In light of the statutory exception for restrictive covenants, we conclude that the instant covenants survived the tax sale. In short, a dominant estate holder is not required to redeem its interest following a tax sale. The trial court did not err by ruling in favor of the Association, and we affirm its denial of Patrick’s motion to correct error.”

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