Friday, March 23, 2012

Elderly Homeowner Sues To Recover Home Lost In Tax Foreclosure Sale; Says 'I Was Never Properly Notified Of My Redemption Rights!'

In Ripley, West Virginia, The West Virginia Record reports:
  • A Jackson County woman who lost her home is seeking to get it back after the company that bought it failed to follow state law in taking ownership of it. Ora B. Thomas filed a property dispute lawsuit against NAJ, LLC in Jackson Circuit Court. In her complaint filed Feb. 17, Thomas, 86, alleges NAJ, a real estate holding company located on Timberline Drive in Charleston, failed to properly redeem her property it bought in a tax sale two years ago.


  • According to her suit, Thomas took ownership of her property on Ravenswood Pike in Ripley on June 13, 2003. When she became delinquent in paying her 2007 taxes, NAJ bought it on Nov. 19, 2008, at a sale administered by Jackson County Sheriff Michael G. Bright. According to the Jackson County Assessor's Office, Thomas bought the property for $45,000.


  • In the tax sale, NAJ paid $1,563 for it. By law, before NAJ could formally claim title to the property, it had to notify Thomas of her right to redeem it. In her suit, Thomas alleges NAJ made little, if any, effort. Though she does not provide specifics, Thomas maintains NAJ attempted to notify her via certified mail to an unspecified address, but the notice was returned as "undelieverable."


  • Also, she alleges NAJ failed to take "additional reasonable steps" to notify her about redeeming the property including "constructive notice by publication" in a newspaper of general circulation.


  • Nevertheless, a deed giving NAJ title to the property was executed May 18, 2010, by Jackson County Clerk Jeff Waybright. The deed was recorded in the Clerk's Office the next day.


  • Along with an order setting aside the deed, Thomas seeks compensation in the amount of not only what would have been required to redeem the property, but also the taxes that have been paid on it since May 2010 along with 12 percent interest, court costs and attorney fees.(1)

Source: Jackson woman files suit to reclaim home.

(1) In a similar case, New York State's highest court, in reversing a state appeals court ruling, recently found that notification of redemption rights to a homeowner in a tax foreclosure action is not necessary and results in no due process rights violation. See NYS High Court: No Due Process Violation Where Municipality Fails To Inform Property Owners Of Buyback Rights In Tax Foreclosure.

In the current West Virginia case, unlike the New York case, in which it was the foreclosing municipality that screwed up on giving proper notification, it is a private, tax lien investor who is alleged to have fumbled the ball on properly notifying the property owner. It may be that the New York court was loathe to rule against the municipality for its screw-up (which may have resulted in a tremendous burden for municipalities across the state regarding the process by which they collect property taxes, not to mention all the crappy land titles that would have arisen from the screw-up); accordingly, it 'reverse engineered' the necessary logic needed to support a (predetermined?) 'conclusion' that no due process rights were violated.

In the current West Virginia case, because it is a private, tax lien investor rights involved (as opposed to a state tax collecting authority), the state court may be less reluctant to rule against said investor because no imposition would be created for said tax collecting authorities. The burden would be on each individual tax lien investor to clean up the mess created by its own screw-up.

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