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In re Tax Claim Bureau of Lehigh County 2012 Judicial Tax Sale

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

January 8, 2015

In Re: Tax Claim Bureau of Lehigh County 2012 Judicial Tax Sale; Appeal of: Seung Hee Lee; In Re: Tax Claim Bureau of Lehigh County 2012 Judicial Tax Sale; Appeal of: Winston Collado and Rafael Mendez

Argued December 10, 2014

Appealed from No. 2013-TX-2. Common Pleas Court of the County of Lehigh. Reichley, J.

Matthew J. Goodrich, Bangor, for appellant Seung Hee Lee.

Robert A. Pinel, Bethlehem, for appellees Winston Collado and Rafael Mendez.

BEFORE: HONORABLE RENÉ E COHN JUBELIRER, Judge, HONORABLE P. KEVIN BROBSON, Judge, HONORABLE ROCHELLE S. FRIEDMAN, Senior Judge.

OPINION

Page 854

P. KEVIN BROBSON, Judge

Seung Hee Lee (Lee) appeals from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County (trial court), setting aside the judicial tax sale of a property located at 24 South 8th Street, Allentown, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania (the Property). For the reasons stated below, we affirm.

In 2004, Winston Collado (Collado) purchased the Property and shortly thereafter executed a mortgage to Rafael Mendez (Mendez) in the amount of $120,000. The mortgage was recorded in the Lehigh County Recorder of Deeds Division and was in effect at the time of the judicial tax sale. As recorded on the mortgage, Collado's address was 4 Cobblestone Drive, Easton, Pennsylvania 18045. Mendez's address was recorded as 450-452 Fayette Street, Porth[1] Amboy, New Jersey 08861.

The Lehigh County Tax Bureau (Bureau) sent Collado three notices of tax deficiency, dated March 9, 2011, April 1, 2012, and June 13, 2012. The notices were

Page 855

sent via certified mail to Collado's last known address at Cobblestone Drive. All three notices were unclaimed. Because the property taxes remained unpaid, the Property was exposed for upset sale on September 12, 2012. The property failed to sell at the upset price, and on October 12, 2012, the Bureau filed a petition for a rule to sell the Property at a judicial sale. The trial court issued a rule to show cause why the Property should not be exposed to judicial sale, setting a hearing date of December 3, 2012 (Rule).

The sheriff's office, in compliance with Section 611 of the Real Estate Tax Sale Law (RETSL),[2] attempted to serve Collado personally with the Rule at his Cobblestone Drive address. Notations on the order of service indicate that the Cobblestone Drive property was vacant and that a bank had taken over the home. The sheriff's office then attempted to serve Collado at the Property, but noted that service was unsuccessful because Collado lived in New Jersey, according to the Property's occupant. The sheriff's office also posted a copy of the Rule on the Property.

On November 28, 2012, the sheriff's office sent a copy of the Rule to Collado, via certified mail, at 368 Rector Street, Apartment 516, Perth Amboy, New Jersey, 08861--an address at which Collado had been receiving water and sewer bills from the City of Allentown. The ...


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