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WALTER H. DOUGLASS v. GRACE BUILDING CO. (03/23/78)

decided: March 23, 1978.

WALTER H. DOUGLASS, JR. AND DALLAS DOUGLASS, HIS WIFE, APPELLANTS,
v.
GRACE BUILDING CO., INC.



COUNSEL

Ward E. Clark, Brenden E. Brett, Doylestown, for appellants.

Alfred O. Breinig, Jr., Jenkintown, for appellee.

Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix, Manderino and Larsen, JJ. Manderino, J., joins this opinion and files a concurring opinion. Pomeroy, J., dissents.

Author: O'brien

[ 477 Pa. Page 290]

OPINION OF THE COURT

This appeal is from an order of the Commonwealth Court which affirmed the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County. The Bucks County court ordered and decreed that a treasurer's deed of conveyance was valid and effective to convey absolute title to appellee, Grace Building Co., Inc. (Grace Building).

[ 477 Pa. Page 291]

An action to quiet title was brought by Walter H. Douglass, Jr. and his wife, Dallas Douglass, appellants. The facts are not disputed; the case has proceeded on stipulated facts which are as follows. In 1965 appellants bought a residence in Bucks County and thereafter paid the realty taxes through the mortgagee. However, appellants failed to comply with an agreement entered into at settlement whereby they became obligated to pay an interim school tax for the year 1966 in the amount of $191.10. In November of 1967 the Bucks County Treasurer sent a notice to appellants of the amount due, including the following clause in bold type: "PAYMENT ACCEPTED ONLY BY CASH, MONEY ORDER OR CERTIFIED CHECK." Similar delinquency notices were sent February 1, 1968, April 1, 1968, and June 3, 1968. The fourth notice also stated that a tax sale was to be scheduled for August 5, 1968, unless payment was made. No payment having been tendered by that date, the property, with a mortgage of $14,100, was sold to Grace Building.

On June 1, 1970, appellants received a final delinquency notice informing them of their right of redemption and stating that "cash, certified check or money order" in the amount of $251.26 (which included interest) was payable to the treasurer. On July 27, 1970, nine days before the expiration date of the redemption period, appellants mailed to the Bucks County Treasurer a personal check drawn on their personal account at the Girard Trust Bank in the amount of $251.26.*fn1 Instead of depositing appellants' uncertified check on the day of receipt, the treasurer's office mailed it back to appellants with instructions that payment would be accepted only by "cash, certified check or money order." Appellants did not have the check certified until August 6, 1970, and it was not received by the treasurer's office until August 10, 1970. On August 6, 1970, the treasurer's office deeded the property to Grace Building.

[ 477 Pa. Page 292]

Appellants then brought an action to quiet title, contending that their tender of a personal check to the treasurer's office constituted payment within the meaning of § 15 of the Act of May 29, 1931, P.L. 280, § 15, as amended, 72 P.S. § 5971 o, which act provides:

"§ 5971 o. Redemption money

"If any owner, his heirs or legal representatives, or any lien creditor, his heirs, assigns or legal representatives, or other person interested, shall, within two years after the day such sale was made, redeem such real estate for the benefit of the owner, by payment of the taxes and interest for which the lands were sold, and the costs, with an additional sum of fifteen per centum, and any taxes which may have been levied against any such property since the treasurer's sale, and which remain unpaid by the owner or redeemer, to the county treasurer, he shall receive and receipt for the same, and pay said taxes, interest, costs and additional percentage over to the purchaser upon demand, and the accrued taxes to the district entitled thereto; and the county treasurer shall forthwith acknowledge the receipt of the redemption moneys upon the margin of the acknowledgment of the treasurer's deed, as the same is entered and recorded in the prothonotary's office as aforesaid, and, if said deed has been recorded in the office for recording of deeds, cause an entry to be made on the ...


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