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In re Clinton County Tax Claims Bureau

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

January 23, 2015

In Re: Clinton County Tax Claims Bureau Consolidated Return For Sale of September 24, 2012, David A. Rakocy
v.
Clinton County Tax Claim Bureau and Saratoga Partners, LP Appeal of: David A. Rakocy

Submitted: September 19, 2014.

Appealed from No. 1194-13 CV. Common Pleas Court of the County of Clinton. Judge Williamson, Senior Judge.

Frederick D. Lingle, Lock Haven, for appellant.

Larry E. Coploff and John P. Boileau, Lock Haven, for appellees.

BEFORE: HONORABLE DAN PELLEGRINI, President Judge, HONORABLE PATRICIA A. McCULLOUGH, Judge, HONORABLE ROCHELLE S. FRIEDMAN, Senior Judge. OPINION BY JUDGE McCULLOUGH.

OPINION

Page 332

PATRICIA A. McCULLOUGH, Judge

David A. Rakocy (Rakocy) appeals from the February 18, 2014 order of the Court of Common Pleas of Clinton County (trial court) denying his petition to set aside the September 30, 2013 tax sale of real property (Property) in Beech Creek Township, Clinton County, Pennsylvania. Rakocy asserts that the trial court erred in denying his petition to set aside the tax sale and in concluding that the Clinton County Tax Claim Bureau (Bureau) satisfied its burden of proving strict compliance with the posting requirements of section 602(e)(3) of the Real Estate Tax Sale Law (Law),[1] which provides that " [e]ach property scheduled for sale shall be posted at least ten (10) days prior to the sale." 72 P.S. § 5860.602(e)(3).

Rakocy was the record owner of the Property, identified as Clinton County Tax Parcel No. 06-01-0004-83-C. On September 30, 2013, the Property was exposed to a tax sale by the Bureau for delinquent real estate taxes and was purchased by Saratoga Partners, LP (Saratoga). Rakocy filed a petition to set aside the tax sale on November 22, 2013, arguing that " service made upon [Rakocy] was not done as required by law." (Trial court op. at 1.) The trial court held a hearing on January 17, 2014.

The parties stipulated that Rakocy received notice of the impending tax sale by certified mail and that notice of the sale was properly advertised pursuant to section 602 of the Law.[2] Although Rakocy's petition did not specifically raise the issue of whether posting was adequate, the parties agreed that the only issue before the trial court was whether the Bureau satisfied the posting requirement of section 602(e)(3).

Deputy Kerry Stover (Stover) testified that the Property is landlocked and does not border a public road; it can only be

Page 333

accessed from a public road through a gate and down a private driveway that abuts the Property and several neighboring lots. The gate is located at the intersection of the private drive and Forest Road, a public road. (Notes of Testimony (N.T.) at 5-6, 9.)

Stover testified that on September 8, 2013, he posted the Property by attaching the notice of sale to the gate at the entrance to the private drive. Stover stated that the gate was locked at that time. Stover acknowledged that the notice was not posted on the Property itself. He explained that " my practice is to go as far as I can," but " when there's a locked gate [and] I can't see the structure, that's as far as I go." (N.T. at 28.) Stover also noted that the notice would not have ...


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