The Flawed Tax Sale

February 27, 2019 § Leave a comment

It can only take a minimal flub in the steps leading up to a tax sale for the whole thing to be thrown out.

That’s the lesson you can take from the COA decision in Rebuild America, Inc. v. Drew, handed down January 22, 2019. In that case the chancellor had ruled that Jane Drew never got actual notice of the three tax sales that resulted in forfeiture of her property in Diamondhead, and the failure to notify her in compliance with the statutes rendered the sales — all three — completely ineffective and void. Here is how the COA concluded its unanimous ruling (Tindell not participating):

¶31. Drew was never given proper statutory notice that her property had been sold for taxes or of her right to redeem the property. As our Supreme Court recently reiterated, Mississippi law takes “a hard-line approach” to this issue: “the redemption-notice statute must be followed strictly.” Campbell Props., 2018 WL 6381141, at *4 (¶15). When the statute is not followed strictly, the tax sale is void ab initio—it has no legal effect whatsoever, and it is as if the sale never happened. City of Horn Lake, 2018 WL 2731592, at *3 (¶13). Because each successive tax sale in this case was void ab initio, Drew remains the rightful owner of the property. Accordingly, the judgment of the chancery court is AFFIRMED.

The two important principles are: (1) Mississippi tax sale notice laws must be strictly complied with; and (2) failure to follow the statutes strictly renders the sale void ab initio, meaning it is as if it never happened.

When you are considering whether to take a tax sale case, look at every single stage of the proceedings, and look carefully. It is not enough that there was substantial compliance with the statutes; the cases, of which there are many, demand a strict compliance with the notice and redemption provisions.

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