Judges Opinions, — February 22, 2023 11:54 — 0 Comments

In Re: Lebanon County Tax Claim Bureau, Real Estate Tax Sale 2021 Paul E. Sanger, Jr., and Marcene L. Sanger, Husband and Wife, v. Lebanon County Tax Claim Bureau, v. John Pack

In Re: Lebanon County Tax Claim Bureau, Real Estate Tax Sale 2021

Paul E. Sanger, Jr., and Marcene L. Sanger, Husband and Wife, v. Lebanon County Tax Claim Bureau, v. John Pack

 

Civil Action-Property Law-Tax Sale-Notice Requirements-Owner of Record-Owner Occupant-Personal Service-Installment Sales Agreement

 

Paul E. Sanger, Jr., and Marcene L. Sanger (“the Sangers”) own and continue to reside at property that was sold to John Pack at a tax sale.  The Sangers objected to the tax sale on the basis that the Lebanon County Tax Claim Bureau (“Tax Claim Bureau”) failed to comply with the notice requirements of the Pennsylvania Real Estate Tax Sale Law, 72 P.S. § 5860.101 et seq., for failing personally to serve a notice of the sale upon their daughter-in-law with whom the Sangers had signed an installment agreement of sale for the property.

 

  1. Title 72 P.S. § 5860.601(a)(3) provides that no owner occupied property may be sold until the Bureau has provided the owner occupant with written notice of the sale at least ten (10) days prior to the date of the actual sale by personal service with a written return of service to the Bureau setting forth the name of the person served and the date, time and place of service and attaching a copy of the notice served.

 

  1. An owner of a property is defined by 72 P.S. § 5860.102 as a person in whose name the property is last registered according to law or, if not registered according to law, the person whose name last appears as an owner of record on any deed or instrument of conveyance recorded.

 

  1. An owner occupant is defined by § 5860.102 as the owner of a property that has improvements constructed thereon and for which the annual tax bill is mailed to an owner residing at the same address as the property.

 

  1. Where the installment agreement of sale between the Sangers and their daughter-in-law never was recorded with the Lebanon County Recorder of Deeds Office and the Sangers’ daughter-in-law is not an owner occupant of the property, the Tax Claim Bureau was under no obligation to provide the Sangers’ daughter-in-law with personal service of the impending sale.

 

  1. The Bureau fully complied with the Notice requirements of the Real Estate Tax Sale Law when the record establishes that a deputy sheriff delivered a notice of the tax sale that was signed for by a man who identified himself as Paul Sanger more than ten (10) days before the sale and the Tax Claim Bureau followed its standard procedures of mailings and notices prior to the personal service of the written notice.

 

L.C.C.C.P. No. 2021-00023, Opinion by John C. Tylwalk, President Judge, April 11, 2022.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF LEBANON COUNTY

PENNSYLVANIA

 

CIVIL DIVISION

 

IN RE:  LEBANON COUNTY TAX           :         NO. 2021-00023

CLAIM BUREAU, REAL ESTATE TAX   :

SALE 2021                                       :

:

PAUL E. SANGER, JR. AND MARCENE  :

  1. SANGER, Husband and Wife, :

Plaintiffs/Objectors                  :

:

  1. :

:

LEBANON COUNTY TAX CLAIM           :

BUREAU,                                         :

Defendant/Respondent             :

:

  1. :

:

JOHN PACK,                                             :

Intervenor                                :

 

ORDER OF COURT

 

AND NOW, this 11th day of April, 2022, upon consideration of the Objection to Tax Sale submitted by Paul E. Sanger, Jr. and Marcene L. Sanger, the evidence adduced at the hearing conducted on January 24, 2022, and the Briefs submitted by the parties, it is hereby Ordered that said Objection is OVERRULED.

BY THE COURT:

 

                                                          __________________________, P.J.

                                                          JOHN C. TYLWALK

 

JCT/jah

 

Cc:  David Warner, Esquire

       Reilly Wolfson

       Joseph Dignazio, Esquire/227-229 North Olive Street/P. O. Box 428/Media,

           PA  19063

       Judith Huber, Esquire/Law Clerk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF LEBANON COUNTY

PENNSYLVANIA

 

CIVIL DIVISION

 

IN RE:  LEBANON COUNTY TAX           :         NO. 2021-00023

CLAIM BUREAU, REAL ESTATE TAX   :

SALE 2021                                       :

:

PAUL E. SANGER, JR. AND MARCENE  :

  1. SANGER, Husband and Wife, :

Plaintiffs/Objectors                  :

:

  1. :

:

LEBANON COUNTY TAX CLAIM           :

BUREAU,                                         :

Defendant/Respondent             :

:

  1. :

:

JOHN PACK,                                             :

Intervenor                                :

 

APPEARANCES:

 

ANDREW RACE, ESQUIRE          FOR PAUL E. SANGER AND

REILLY WOLFSON                                  MARCENE L. SANGER

 

DAVID WARNER, ESQUIRE                  FOR LEBANON COUNTY TAX CLAIM BUZGON DAVIS LAW OFFICES               BUREAU

 

MICHAEL P. DIGNAZIO, ESQUIRE     FOR JOHN PACK

 

 

OPINION, TYLWALK, P.J., APRIL 11, 2022.

 

Plaintiffs/Objectors Paul E. Sanger, Jr. and Marcene L. Sanger (“Sangers”) are the record owners of 125 Hamlin Road in Fredericksburg (“the property”) and continue to reside thereThe property was sold to Intervenor John Pack at a tax sale conducted on September 13, 2021.  The Sangers have filed an Objection to the Tax Sale, claiming that Defendant Lebanon County Tax Claim Bureau (“Tax Claim Bureau”) failed to comply with the Pennsylvania Real Estate Tax Sale Law, 72 P.S. §5860.101 et seq and requesting that we set aside the sale of the property.  We conducted a hearing on the Objection on January 24, 2022.  The parties have filed Briefs in support of their positions and the matter is now before us for disposition.

Section 5860.601(a)(3) of the Tax Sale Law sets forth the notice requirements for an owner-occupied property which is listed for sale due to delinquent taxes:

  • 5860.601. Date of sale

 

(3) No owner-occupied property may be sold unless the bureau has given the owner occupant written notice of such sale at least ten (10) days prior to the date of actual sale by personal service by the sheriff or his deputy or person deputized by the sheriff for this purpose unless the county commissioners, by resolution, appoint a person or persons to make all personal services required by this clause. The sheriff or his deputy shall make a return of service to the bureau, or the persons appointed by the county commissioners in lieu of the sheriff or his deputy shall file with the bureau written proof of service, setting forth the name of the person served, the date and time and place of service, and attach a copy of the notice which was served. If such personal notice cannot be served within twenty-five (25) days of the request by the bureau to make such personal service, the bureau may petition the court of common pleas to waive the requirement of personal notice for good cause shown. Personal service of notice on one of the owners shall be deemed personal service on all owners.

 

72 P.S. §5860.601(a)(3).

The testimony adduced at the hearing established that the Tax Claim Bureau was in full compliance with the requirements of Section 5860.601(a)(3).  Belinda Spicer, Deputy Director of the Tax Claim Bureau, explained that there is a two-year process before a property will be subject to a tax sale.  She testified that if the real estate taxes on a property are unpaid in one tax year, the matter will get turned over to her office in January.  At that time, she will send a certified letter reminding the owners of the unpaid taxes.  If the taxes are not paid, the owners will receive notice of a tax sale the following year.  Notice of the sale will be posted on the property and personal service will be made on the owners.  The property will then be advertised for sale.

Spicer confirmed that this process was followed prior to the sale of this property.  On March 9, 2020, The Tax Claim Bureau mailed a Notice of the delinquent taxes to the Sangers by certified mail.  (Exhibit “1”) The return receipt for the Notice indicated that it was delivered by the United States Postal Service and signed for by Paul Sanger on March 11, 2020. (Exhibit “2”)   When the taxes remained unpaid, a Notice of Public Tax Sale was sent via certified mail to the Sangers indicating that the property would be listed for tax sale on September 13, 2021 and advising them to contact the Tax Claim Bureau in order to prevent the sale.  (Exhibit “3”) The return receipt from the Postal Service indicated that Paul Sanger signed for the Notice on May 20, 2021.  (Exhibit “4”)  The Notice of the sale was posted on the property on July 28, 2021 and personal service of the Notice of sale was made by the Lebanon County Sheriff on Paul Sanger on July 30, 2021.  (Exhibit “5”)  The Sangers were served with the Second Notice of Public Sale dated August 11, 2021. (Exhibit “6”) The sale was advertised in the Lebanon Daily News, and Lebanon County Legal Journal, and the Merchandiser in August of 2021.  The property was then sold to Intervenor John Pack at the tax sale on September 13, 2021.  The Tax Claim Bureau produced a sixty-year title search of the property which revealed the Sangers to be the recorded title owners. (Exhibit “7”)  Spicer confirmed that all the standard procedures were followed and that the Tax Claim Bureau fully complied with the Pennsylvania Real Estate Tax Claim Law.

Deputy Sheriff James Hunt testified that he had first attempted to serve the Notice of Tax Sale on July 28, 2021; however, he was unable to make contact with anyone when he visited the property on that date.  He did post the Notice at the property while he was there on that date.  Deputy Hunt explained that the return of service is done electronically and that he takes a picture of the site when he posts the Notice. (Exhibit “5”) He returned on July 30, 2021.  At that visit, an elderly man answered the door and identified himself as Paul Sanger.  The man signed for the notice and Deputy Hunt advised him to contact the Tax Bureau in order to avoid the sale of the property.

Michelle Sanger also testified at the hearing.  Sanger explained that she is the Sanger’s daughter-in-law and that she became their agent under a power of attorney which was signed after the date of the tax sale due to the Sangers’ physical limitations.  She explained that Marcene suffers from dementia and COPD.  Paul has had two strokes, has trouble speaking,  has suffered a heart attack and has a pacemaker.  Sanger stated that Paul Sanger claimed that he was never given a copy of the notice of the sale. [1]

Sanger further explained that the Sangers had signed an Installment Agreement of Sale for the property with their daughter, Tammi Hopkins.  (Exhibit “8”)  Under the agreement, Hopkins was responsible for payment of the property taxes.  Sanger admitted, however, that the Agreement was never recorded and that the Sangers continued to retain title to the property.[2]  The Sangers claim that they are entitled to have the sale set aside because neither they, nor the equitable owner of the property, Tammi Hopkins, was personally served with notice of the sale.

An “owner” is defined as

 

the person in whose name the property is last registered, if registered according to law, or, if not registered according to law, the person whose name last appears as an owner of record on any deed or instrument of conveyance recorded in the county office designated for recording and in all other cases means any person in open, peaceable and notorious possession of the property, as apparent owner or owners thereof, or the reputed owner or owners thereof, in the neighborhood of such property; as to property having been turned over to the bureau under Article VII3 by any county, “owner” shall mean the county.

 

72 P.S. §5860.102.  An “owner occupant,” is defined as “the owner of a property which has improvements constructed thereon and for which the annual tax bill is mailed to an owner residing at the same address as that of the property.” 72 P.S. §5860.102.

We find no merit to the Sangers’ argument.  The Installment Agreement of Sale was never recorded with the Lebanon County Recorder of Deeds Office and the Tax Claim Bureau was never notified of its existence.   Tammi Hopkins is not an owner-occupant of the property as she has no recorded property interest and does not reside on the premises.  The Tax Claim Bureau had no obligation to provide her with personal service of the impending tax sale.  The evidence adduced at the hearing indicated that the Sangers reside on the property, are the only recorded owners and continue to hold title.  Based on the testimony and exhibits, we are satisfied that Paul Sanger was personally served with the Notice of Tax Sale by Deputy Sheriff Hunt.

We agree with the Tax Claim Bureau that the property was sold in accordance with all the statutory requirements and we will, therefore, overrule the Sangers’ Objections.

 

 

 

[1] Neither Paul Sanger or Marcene Sanger appeared at the hearing.

[2] In their Objection to the Sale, the Sangers also claimed that the sale should be set aside on the basis of a conflict of interest because the law partner of counsel for the Tax Claim Bureau prepared the agreement of sale.  At the hearing, counsel for the Sangers and counsel for the Tax Claim Bureau stipulated that the agreement had been prepared for Hopkins by a member of Tax Claim Bureau counsel’s law firm.  This claim was not developed at the hearing and we believe it provides no basis upon which to set aside the tax sale.

 

 

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