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Pitts v. Delaware County Tax Claim Bureau

February 27, 2009

GLORIA PITTS
v.
DELAWARE COUNTY TAX CLAIM BUREAU



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McGinley, Judge

Appeal of Chadd Neumann and Steve Fitzgerald LLP.

Argued Nov. 12, 2008

Decided February 27, 2009

BEFORE: LEADBETTER, President Judge, and McGINLEY, Judge, SMITH-RIBNER, Judge, PELLEGRINI, Judge, FRIEDMAN*fn1, Judge, JUBELIRER, Judge, and BUTLER, Judge.

OPINION BY Judge McGINLEY.

Chadd Neumann*fn2 (Neumann) and Steve Fitzgerald (Fitzgerald), LLP (collectively, Appellants) appeal from the orders of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County (trial court)*fn3 that set aside the upset sale at 335 Francis Drive, Haverford, Pa. (Property) and vacated the tax sale deed issued after Appellants' successful bid on the Property.

On March 26, 2007*fn4, Gloria Pitts (Appellee) filed an emergency petition and alleged:

1. Petitioner ... [Appellee] is an adult individual and at all relevant times hereto the record owner/occupant and principal resident of 335 Francis Lane, Delaware County, Pennsylvania ... hereinafter the "Property". (emphasis added).
2. Respondent, Delaware County Tax Claim Bureau ... is charged with ... collecting upon delinquent taxes from the residents of the County of Delaware, such as your Petitioner [Appellee].

....

4. On September 13, 2006, the Petitioner's [Appellee's] Property was exposed to Upset Price Sale by the Tax Claim Bureau for purposes of collecting upon delinquent 2004 real estate taxes in the purported amount of $2,293.53.

....

6. Your Petitioner [Appellee] ... only became aware of the said sale for the first time in early October of 2006 upon finding a post-it note upon her door from the purported third party purchaser Chad Neumann, in which he indicated that he had purchased the Property at upset sale....

....

8. Your Petitioner [Appellee] has since determined ... that notice of the said September 13, 2006 Upset Price Sale is fatally defective in numerous respects, as a result of which she [Appellee] was not properly apprised of these proceedings as required by law and/or this Honorable Court.

....

13. The records of the file in this matter at the Tax Claim Bureau as well as the Office of Judicial Support are completely devoid of any proof of actual notice upon the Petitioner [Appellee] of the September 17, 2006 Upset Tax Sale.
14. In that regard, the Tax Sale Law specifically provides that no owner-occupied property may be sold unless the Tax Claim Bureau has given the owner occupant written notice of such sale at least ten (10) days prior to the date of actual sale by personal service by the sheriff, or other designated representative.
15. However, while the file does appear to reflect that notice of the sale was purportedly posted upon the Property by the Office of the Sheriff of Delaware County on or about August 6th, 2006, there is absolutely no proof of personal service upon your Petitioner [Appellee], the owner/occupant at all times relevant, as required by the Tax Claim Law.

....

17. Thereafter, by Petition filed ... on August 28th, the Tax Claim Bureau requested an Order ... permitting the Tax Claim Bureau to waive the requirement of personal notice regarding the said owner- occupied properties....

....

19. In response to the said Petition, this Honorable Court issued it's [sic] Order ... in which it listed the said Petition for a Hearing on September 8th, 2006 and further specifically directed the Tax Claim Bureau to serve Respondents [Appellants] with notice of the said Petition and Hearing as required by applicable law.

....

21. Importantly, however, the records of the Tax Claim Bureau as well as the Office of Judicial Support are completely devoid of service/notice of the said Petition and/or the September 8th, 2006 Hearing....
22. Nevertheless, this Honorable Court ... permitted the sale of Petitioner's [Appellee's] Property without the necessity of personal notice as required by the Tax Sale Law.
23. Assuming for purposes of argument only that waiver of personal service upon an owner/occupant is even legally permissible, which your Petitioner [Appellee] would submit is not, your Petitioner [Appellee] was nevertheless deprived of her due process and substantive rights in that she was never even provided with service/notice of the underlying Petition and/or Hearing thereon as ...

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