02 May 2007

judge harry randow's property tax snafu

interesting opinion hot off the third circuit press...

click link for 8 page .pdf

note: we cant find a record in the louisiana sec'y of state corporations database for louisiana tax-1, inc.

The plaintiff, Jeanne M. Olson, purchased a piece of residential real estate, including improvements, described as 1908 Marigold Street, Alexandria, Louisiana, on February 18, 1999, for $89,594.44. When the property taxes for 1999 were not paid, the property was advertised and sold at a tax sale on May 3, 2000, to Louisiana Tax-1, Inc. More than 3 years after the sale, Ms. Olson contacted Louisiana Tax-1 in an attempt to regain her property. As a result of that contact, Louisiana Tax-1 prepared a contract, which it sent, certified-mail, return receipt requested, to Ms. Olson on September 8, 2003. The letter was returned as “Unclaimed” on September 24, 2003. Thereafter, on October 3, 2003, Louisiana Tax-1 transferred its ownership in the property to Jeff L. Melder, by execution of a “quitclaim” deed. This suit was filed October 14, 2003, naming William E. Hilton, the Rapides Parish Sheriff and Tax Collector, as the defendant. By a Supplemental and Amending Petition, Jeff L. Melder and Carolyn Ryland, Clerk of Court for Rapides Parish, were added as defendants. Subsequently, the Sheriff was dismissed.
First, we cannot conclude from the record whether Mr. Melder is the proper defendant. His claim to the property is via quitclaim deed from Louisiana Tax-1. Louisiana Tax-1 claims title from a tax sale deed executed May 5, 2000, by Harry Vermaelen, Chief Deputy Tax Collector for Rapides Parish. However, we also find an affidavit executed by Mr. Vermaelen on April 18, 2006, wherein he states: “This property has also been adjudicated at public tax sales in 2001, 2002, [and] 2003.” That same affidavit also states: “At the tax sale of May 3, 2000, and also at the public tax sale in 2001, 2002 and 2003, action did not take place to sell any lesser portion of the property nor to sell any undivided interest.”
If the property was resold for taxes in 2001, 2002, and 2003, as Mr. Vermaelen’s affidavit states, who bought the property? Mr. Melder holds his title via a quitclaim deed; hence his interest is no more than the interest Louisiana Tax-1 had at the time it executed the quitclaim. If three other parties bought the property for taxes in 2001, 2002, and 2003, respectively, then Louisiana Tax-1 had no interest to convey. To be entitled to a judgment “as a matter of law” one must bring suit against the proper party. The record does not establish that Mr. Melder is the proper party defendant.
Whether Mr. Melder is, indeed the proper party defendant; whether the property in question was sold to other parties in 2001, 2002, and 2003; whether the value of the property was made known to the bidders at the tax sale(s); and whether 100% interest in the property was the least quantity of property which any bidder would have bought for the amount of the taxes, interest, and costs due, are all genuine issue of material fact which preclude the granting of summary judgment in this case.

1908 marigold st. alexandria, la via google maps
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