Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County in case of In Re: Upset Sale, Tax Claim Bureau of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, held September 14, 1970, No. 70-14207 Dkt. No. 141.
Alfred O. Breinig, Jr., for appellant.
Robert J. Johnson, for appellee.
President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers and Blatt. Opinion by Judge Blatt.
This case involves an Upset Price Tax Sale of land, owned by John W. and Jean G. Schmid (Schmids) as tenants by the entireties, to R. Wheatcroft (Wheatcroft). The real estate taxes on this land for 1967, 1968, 1969 and 1970 were unpaid although notice of each such delinquency was sent by certified mail to the Schmids in each year concerned by the Tax Claim Bureau of Montgomery County (Bureau). Each such notice consisted of a single piece of mail addressed to both of the Schmids and all of the return receipts therefor were signed by Jean G. Schmid.
Because the taxes remained upaid, the Bureau scheduled the land to be sold at its Upset Price Tax Sale, and notice of such sale was sent by certified mail to the Schmids. Again, this notice was a single piece of mail addressed to both of the Schmids and the return receipt was signed by Jean G. Schmid. In addition, one of the county assessors, a Mr. Stuhlmuller (Stuhlmuller), filed an affidavit that he had properly posted the premises. The sale was held on September 14, 1970, and Wheatcroft was the successful bidder. After payment of the delinquent taxes and other liens, there was a balance out of the price bid of $4,198.11, and a check for this amount was forwarded to the Schmids, endorsed by both of them and cashed.
John W. Schmid subsequently instituted an action in the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County seeking to declare the land sale null and void, and that court, in so declaring the invalidity of the sale, held that the notices sent to the Schmids were inadequate because they were not sent to each one individually. It also held that the property had been improperly posted, finding that Stuhlmuller had merely handed the notice to Jean G. Schmid when he should have affixed it somewhere on the property.
Upon a careful review of the record, we must reverse the lower court's decision.
As to the notice required, Section 602 of the Real Estate Tax Sale Law, Act of July 7, 1947, P.L. 1368, as amended, 72 P.S. § 5860.602, provides that advertisement must be made for three consecutive weeks in two newspapers of general circulation in the county and once in a legal journal. "In addition to such publications, similar notice of the sale shall also be given by the bureau, at least ten (10) days before the date of the sale, by United States registered mail, personal addressee only, return receipt requested, postage prepaid, to each owner as defined by this act and by posting on the property." It is clear that "[t]he notice provisions of the tax sale statute must be strictly complied with in order to guard against the deprivation of property without due process of law." Chester County Tax Claim Bureau Appeal, 208 Pa. Superior Ct. 384, 387, 222 A.2d 602, 604 (1966).
The lower court erred in holding that the Bureau improperly sent notice to the Schmids by a single piece of mail. We have stated, in Tax Claim Bureau of Montgomery County v. Wheatcroft, 2 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 408, 413, 278 A.2d 172, 175 (1971):
"Under the facts of this case a proper letter of notification addressed to both husband and wife, holding title as tenants by the ...