Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of the 8th Judicial District, Northumberland County, in case of Re: Private Sale of County-Owned Property in the Borough of Riverside, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania (Josephine LaBracio), No. CV-79-3274.
Robert W. Buehner, Jr., Marks and Wagner, for appellant.
Preston L. Davis, Davis, Davis & Kaar, for appellee.
President Judge Crumlish, Jr. and Judges Barry and Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Barry.
[ 78 Pa. Commw. Page 534]
Petitioner, Josephine Brady LaBracio, her brother, Michael Brady, and sister, Margaret Brady Reddington, were the owners of the real estate in Northumberland County as tenants in common, each owning an undivided one-third interest. The property had unpaid real estate taxes for 1977 and, thus, became subject to sale in September 1979. The County Commissioners of Northumberland County bought the property at that time, then sold it on January 10, 1980, to Millard F., Adaline B., and Donald M. Cook. The Cooks thereafter logged approximately 542 hours of work and hauled 20 loads of fill to improve the property.
The Northumberland County Tax Claim Bureau (Bureau) sent notification of the sale by certified mail to "Margaret A. Brady, et al., in care of Vito LaBracio, 56 Pinho Avenue, Carteret, New Jersey, 07008."*fn1 The return receipt came back to the Bureau marked "Unclaimed." Mrs. LaBracio lived at this address and, in the past, had received notices, regular mail, from the tax collector addressed in the above manner. Whenever Mrs. LaBracio had received a notice to pay taxes sent in this fashion she had paid them. Even though she had contacted the tax collector requesting that separate notices be sent to her brother and sister, the notices continued to come to
[ 78 Pa. Commw. Page 535]
her. She had agreed with her brother and sister to pay the taxes since she resided closer to the property. No notices for the payment of taxes nor any notice of the sale of land were ever directed to Josephine LaBracio or Michael Brady.
Mrs. LaBracio failed to pay the 1976 taxes on time and received a notice, sent by certified mail, of a tax sale in May 1978. Mrs. LaBracio signed for and claimed the notice on this occasion. She had sent a check for the taxes and a note with her name and return address on it. The check could not be cashed; however, Mrs. LaBracio arranged payment for those taxes.
Mrs. LaBracio failed to pay her 1977 taxes on time and could not recall the receipt of notice of a subsequent tax sale. The Bureau sent her a notice of the sale, by certified mail, on July 3, 1979. The post office returned it to the Bureau marked "Unclaimed."
Mrs. LaBracio testified that she visited the property in February 1980, and learned of the events regarding the sale to the Cooks. Mrs. LaBracio proceeded in June 1980, to challenge the sale by filing a Petition to File Exceptions Nunc Pro Tunc which included a prayer for relief to set aside and remove any cloud on the title of the property.
The trial court heard the case in August 1980, and issued an opinion in December 1980, dismissing the petition and confirming the sale to the Cooks. The trial court essentially held that Josephine LaBracio received adequate notice ...