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Sanders v. Westmoreland County Tax Claim Bureau

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

May 14, 2014

Billy Joe Sanders, Individually, and In his capacity as Trustee for Keystone Trust, and Keystone Trust, Appellants
v.
Westmoreland County Tax Claim Bureau and Kelly A. Rowe

Argued: April 22, 2014.

Appealed from No. 463 of 2013. Common Pleas Court of the County of Westmoreland. Judge Caruso, President Judge.

Herbert A. Terrell, McDonald, for appellants.

Timothy C. Andrews, Greensburg, for appellee Westmoreland County Tax Claim Bureau.

BEFORE: HONORABLE ROBERT SIMPSON, Judge, HONORABLE ANNE E. COVEY, Judge, HONORABLE ROCHELLE S. FRIEDMAN, Senior Judge. OPINION BY JUDGE COVEY.

OPINION

ANNE E. COVEY, Judge

Billy Joe Sanders, Individually, and In his capacity as Trustee for Keystone Trust, and Keystone Trust (collectively Sanders) appeal from the Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court's (trial court) September 24, 2013 order denying Sanders' summary judgment motion, granting Kelly A. Rowe's (Rowe) summary judgment motion, and dismissing with prejudice Sanders' complaint against Rowe and the Westmoreland County Tax Claim Bureau (Bureau) seeking mandamus and declaratory judgment. The issue before this Court is whether the trial court erred when it granted Rowe's summary judgment motion, and concluded that Sanders did not have a binding purchase agreement for the property at 540 Keystone Street in

Page 98

the City of Greensburg, Westmoreland County (Property). We affirm.

Rowe is the record owner of the Property. Rowe failed to pay real estate taxes on the Property, and as a result the Property was subjected to an upset sale pursuant to the Real Estate Tax Sale Law (RETSL),[1] at which no bids were received and the Property was not sold. The Property was then subjected to a judicial sale, at which no bids were received and the Property was not sold. Consequently, the Property was placed in the Westmoreland County repository.

In December 2011, Sanders submitted a $7,225.00 bid for the Property. Sanders paid the purchase price and a recording fee. However, before receiving written consent of the relevant taxing bodies to sell the Property to Sanders, the Bureau advised Sanders by December 13, 2011 letter that the sale had been denied because Rowe had paid all taxes and costs in full. The total amount paid by Rowe exceeded $21,000.00. The Bureau returned the check for the recording fee and informed Sanders that the purchase price would be refunded.

On February 1, 2013, Sanders filed a Complaint against the Bureau and Rowe seeking mandamus and declaratory relief. On July 15, 2013, Sanders filed a motion for summary judgment. On August 20, 2013, Rowe filed a counter-motion for summary judgment. On September 24, 2013, the trial court denied Sanders' motion for summary judgment, granted Rowe's counter-motion for summary judgment, and dismissed Sanders' complaint with prejudice. Sanders appealed to this Court.[2]

Sanders argues that the trial court erred when it granted summary judgment in Rowe's favor, permitted Rowe to redeem her property, and concluded that Sanders did not have a binding purchase agreement for the Property. Specifically, Sanders contends that after the upset sale, Rowe lost her ability to redeem the subject property by satisfying the outstanding taxes. Sanders further asserts that the Bureau had already accepted his bid at the time of the redemption and thus, he had a valid, enforceable contract. We disagree.

In Commonwealth v. Sprock, 795 A.2d 1100 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2002), this Court provided an overview of the tax ...


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