Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County, in case of In Re: Westmoreland County Tax Claim Bureau, Ritz, Inc., No. 8135 of 1984.
Vincent J. Quatrini, Jr., for appellant.
Pamela Pershing, for appellee.
Judges MacPhail and Barry, and Senior Judge Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Blatt.
[ 110 Pa. Commw. Page 567]
Ritz, Inc. appeals an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County (trial court) which denied that corporation's petition to set aside a sale for delinquent taxes or, in the alternative, to disapprove the subsequent private sale of the property.
The following factual findings are pertinent. Ritz, Inc. is a closely held corporation whose officers are John A. Ritz, President, and Greg Ritz, Secretary. At the time of its incorporation, it registered its corporate address as 1289 Hahntown Wendel Road, Township of North Huntingdon, Westmoreland County, PA (North Huntingdon address), which was property owned by John Ritz. On or about December 12, 1978, Ritz, Inc. became the record owner of the ten acre parcel here in question, and the Westmoreland County Tax Claim Bureau
[ 110 Pa. Commw. Page 568]
(Bureau) sent Ritz, Inc. a notice of tax delinquency regarding this property for the 1982 tax year in June 1983. This notice was addressed to the corporation at 724 Pennsylvania Avenue, Irwin, PA (Irwin address), which was the home of John Ritz's daughter, with whom John Ritz was staying at the time, and he received and acknowledged the notice. In fact, however, John Ritz had moved from his North Huntingdon address to Florida in 1982 and then, after returning from Florida, stayed with his daughter for a time, and then finally moved to 705 Mulberry Street, Scottdale, PA in 1985. Meanwhile Greg Ritz moved to the North Huntingdon address in 1984. John Ritz had paid the taxes on the land in question in the years prior to 1982, and tax claim notices for the 1980 and 1981 years had been sent to the corporation at the North Huntingdon address.
Apparently, after John Ritz received the June 1983 delinquent tax notice, he notified Greg Ritz, who attempted to pay the taxes by sending two checks to John Creighton, the local tax collector of Hempfield Township, Westmoreland County, who in turn voided and returned the checks to Greg Ritz, saying in an accompanying note that he could not accept the checks and that they should be mailed to the Bureau. In this note, Mr. Creighton also provided the Bureau's address. The checks in question had carried Greg Ritz's earlier address in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, where he had lived prior to moving to the North Huntingdon address in 1984 but the tax statements had the North Huntingdon address typed on them. That address, however, was crossed out and the Irwin address written over it. Greg Ritz received the voided checks but made no subsequent payment to the Bureau.
In June 1984, the Bureau again sent a tax deficiency notice to the corporation for 1983 taxes. This notice was sent to the Irwin address, where Beverly Ritz, John
[ 110 Pa. Commw. Page 569]
Ritz's daughter, had earlier acknowledged receipt of the 1982 tax delinquency notice. An exhibit in the record is a notice of public tax sale dated June 5, 1984,*fn1 sent to Ritz at the Irwin address. A post office return-receipt-requested card which was enclosed with the notice was not filled out, indicating, according to ...