Appeals, Nos. 22, 23, 24, 25, 26 and 27, March T., 1956, from orders of Court of Common Pleas of Fayette County, June T., 1953, No. 937, in re: Petition of Commissioners of Fayette County. Orders reversed. Proceeding upon motion of County Commissioners for reargument after final order entered awarding damages in condemnation of real estate to former owners after payment of taxes. Order entered sustaining previous exceptions to viewers' report and directing payment of damages after taxes to Tax Claim Bureau, opinion by CARR, P.J. Former owners appealed.
John L. Spurgeon, with him Wade K. Newell, for appellants.
Samuel J. Feigus, with him John R. Hoye, County Solicitor, for appellee.
Before Stern, C.j., Jones, Bell, Chidsey, Musmanno and Arnold, JJ.
OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE JONES
Where a county becomes the purchaser of a property at a tax sale which it subsequently disposes of after the late owner's right of redemption has expired, who is entitled to the residue of the proceeds from such sale or conversion by the county in excess of the amount of the delinquent tax claims against the property, including interest, penalties and costs? Such is the question which the instant appeals present except for the immaterial fact that the conversion of the property while in the County's ownership was by way of condemnation and not a sale.
On August 4, 1938, the treasurer of Fayette County sold to the County at a public sale for delinquent taxes an improved farm owned by co-tenants in interests
now represented by the appellants. A tax deed to the County for the property was thereafter delivered and recorded. On September 24, 1952, one of the former owners, on behalf of himself and his cotenants, offered to redeem the property and tendered to the County for that purpose a sum in the aggregate amount of all accrued delinquent taxes with interest, penalties and costs to the date of the offer of redemption. The offer was refused by the county commissioners who, by resolution of March 25, 1953, while acting in their capacity as members of the Fayette County Institution District, condemned the property, in an exercise of their power of eminent domain, for the use of the Institution District. On petition of the Institution District, viewers were appointed who, in due course, filed a report wherein they awarded a specified sum in equal one-sixth shares to the former private owners of the property less the amount of all delinquent taxes against the property with interest, penalties and costs. Exceptions by the Institution District to the viewers' report were dismissed by the court en banc and the award affirmed. On motion for reargument, the court vacated its prior order and awarded the surplus proceeds from the condemnation of the property to the County of Fayette. From the final order so entered, the appellants took these several appeals.
The conclusion ultimately reached by the court below rested on a misconception of the scope of our ruling in Bernitsky v. Schuykill County, 381 Pa. 128, 112 A.2d 120. We there held that the right of an owner to redeem property sold to a taxing district at a tax sale terminated when the property came into the possession of the local Tax Claim Bureau. The Real Estate Tax Sale Law of 1947, P.L. 1368, 72 PS § 5860.702 (the statute involved in the Bernitsky case) expressly
so directs. Section 701 of the Act provides that, when county commissioners or any taxing districts have, prior to the effective date of the Act (viz., January 1, 1948) acquired any property at a tax sale, such commissioners or taxing districts shall, prior to January 1, 1949, or in cases where the redemption period (two years under the amendatory Act of June 20, 1939, P.L. 498) has not expired, at such time immediately on the expiration thereof, deliver possession of such property to the Tax Claim Bureau together with all pertinent information in regard thereto; and that thereafter all rights and title to the property, held by such taxing districts, shall vest in the county, as trustee, for all taxing districts having an interest in the management and control of such property.A Tax Claim Bureau for each of the counties of the ...