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Moore v. Keller

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

June 5, 2014

Megan Moore, an heir of the Estate of Grace Moore, and titled owner of Luzerne County PIN #: 11-E8NW2-013-010-000, Appellant
Glen Keller, d/b/a REO Property Management, LLC and Luzerne County Tax Claim Bureau

Submitted November 1, 2013

Publication Ordered August 29, 2014.



Bonnie Brigance Leadbetter, Judge

Appellant, Megan Moore, appeals from the order of the Court of Common Pleas of

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Luzerne County (trial court), which dismissed her petition to set aside tax sale, determining that Appellant lacks standing and that notice of the sale was properly given. We reverse and remand.

In October 1987, Grace B. Moore, executed a will naming her granddaughters, Appellant and Susan N. Gauntlett, as co-executrices. The will directed that upon her death the co-executrices should sell her home located at 105 Franklin Street, Dallas, Pennsylvania, 18162 (the Property) and split the proceeds. In August 1993, Grace B. Moore executed a codicil to her will directing that within four months of her death Appellant could exercise an option to purchase the Property at fair market value less an amount equal to the cost of any capital improvements Appellant had made to the Property during Grace B. Moore's lifetime. Although Grace B. Moore died in 1999, an estate was never opened in her name. Appellant has lived at the Property since 1993 and during that time has paid all taxes on the Property and made various capital improvements. Appellant and her co-executrix and co-heir have been estranged since before Grace B. Moore's death.

On September 20, 2012, the Property was exposed to public sale for non-payment of real estate taxes for the year 2010. The balance due on the Property for tax year 2010 was approximately $287.55. Reproduced Record (R.R.) at 7a. According to the statement of receipts provided by the Luzerne County Tax Claim Bureau (Bureau), Appellant paid $2,394.34 toward the taxes assessed on the Property for the year 2010. R.R. at 6a. The Bureau sent tax-related documents addressed to " Moore Grace, c/o Megan Ide,[1] 105 Franklin Street, Dallas, Pa. 18612-1812." On August 24, 2012, Appellant mailed to the Bureau a personal check in the amount of $2400.01 to pay both the delinquent 2010 taxes and taxes owed for 2011. The Bureau did not cash the check. Based upon Appellant's failure to pay the 2010 taxes, the Bureau sold the property to Glen Keller at a tax sale on September 20, 2012, for the upset price.

Appellant timely filed a petition to set aside tax sale with the trial court. The trial court held a hearing on the petition on January 29, 2013, at which Nadine Emel, a representative of the Bureau, Corey Askew, a Pennsylvania constable and Appellant testified.

Appellant testified that she began living at the Property in 1993 and that all relevant times Grace B. Moore was recorded title owner of the Property. She stated that upon her grandmother's death neither she nor Gauntlett opened an estate. Appellant further testified that she paid the taxes on the Property every year and undertook capital improvements on the Property including removal of a damaged detached garage. Appellant testified that she received a letter notifying her that she owed taxes on the Property and that she responded to this letter by mailing a check to the Bureau on August 24, 2012. She stated that the next communication she received regarding the property was a note on her porch asking her to call a Tony Menino. When she called Menino, he informed her that he had bought the Property at a tax sale. She does not recall receiving any communications from the Bureau regarding a tax sale of the Property and she did not see any notices posted on the house.

Emel, the assistant director of the Bureau, testified regarding the steps the Bureau takes before selling a property at tax sale. Emel stated that the Bureau required that taxpayers whose property was listed for tax sale within 30 days must pay

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either in cash or with a certified check or money order. Emel testified that she was unaware of the Bureau receiving any check from Appellant. She stated that it is possible that an employee returned the check because it was a personal check. Emel testified that according to the postal service records the notice of tax sale which was sent out by certified mail was originally marked undeliverable, then marked as delivered to an address in Wilkes-Barre and eventually returned to the Bureau. She stated that notice was never sent to Gauntlett. Emel testified that the Bureau's record does not contain any proofs of service or green signature cards, nor any evidence that the Bureau did any further searches to obtain alternate contact information. She also admitted ...

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