Tax Sale • Notice • Authorization to Sign

Morrissey v. Monroe, PICS Case No. 14-0429 (C.P. Monroe March 10, 2014) Zulick, J. (9 pages).

Notices of impending tax sale by taxing authority were not sufficient to provide notice to owner of property where the signature on the certified mail receipt did not match the name of the owner. Upset tax sale set aside and declared void and of no effect.

Trustee of trust that owned the property filed a petition to set aside tax sale alleging that proper notice of the sale was not given by the taxing authority. Purchaser of property at tax sale filed an answer and appeared at the hearing.

The Real Estate Tax Sale Law (RETSL) provided for various methods of notice of delinquent taxpayers of impending sale. The taxing authority had the burden of showing compliance with the notice requirements of the RETSL. Since trustee had no actual notice of the upset sale, the court was required to determine if the notices provided by the taxing authority were adequate. The evidence showed that the certified mail was signed for by trustee’s mother who had a similar name. There was no evidence that the mother had authority to accept mail for her son in his capacity as trustee.

Purchaser argued that the mother’s signature was close enough to trustee’s to avoid the need for further inquiry by taxing authority. The court cited Ali v. Montgomery County Tax Claim Bureau, 557 A.2d 35 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1989), and Perma Coal-Sales, Inc. v. Cambria County Tax Claim Bureau, 638 A.2d 329, 331 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1994), which both held that notices by the taxing authorities were inadequate when the certified mail was signed for by someone without authority to sign for the owners of the property.

The court held that taxing authority did not make additional efforts to provide trustee with notice as required by Section 607(a) of the RETSL without proof that the mother had authority to sign for certified mail notices from taxing authority.