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C.J.T.C., LLC v. City of Newark

A-2535-08T3 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2010) (Unpublished)

TAX SALES; NOTICES — To achieve proper notice of a tax sale, all a municipality has to do is to mail the notice to the tax sales certificate purchaser’s last known address; it does not need to obtain an acknowledgment signature on a return receipt card.

A property owner failed to pay municipal taxes in 1994 and 1997, resulting in the issuance of two tax sale certificates. In 2001, the municipality filed an in rem tax foreclosure complaint. Notice of the foreclosure was sent to the purchasers of the tax sale certificates, and the municipality obtained a tax foreclosure judgment.

Six years later, the tax sale certificate purchasers assigned their tax sale certificates to an investor. The investor filed a foreclosure complaint naming the municipality, among others, as a defendant. It then filed a motion for summary judgment and the municipality cross-moved for the same. The investor argued that the municipality’s service of notice of foreclosure was defective as to one of the original purchasers of the tax sale certificate. Specifically, there was no signature acknowledging receipt of the complaint by one of the purchasers. The municipality replied that the investor’s argument was unsupported by any evidence and that the investor had actual knowledge of the foreclosure judgment. For those reasons, the lower court denied the investor’s motion and granted the municipality’s cross-motion for summary judgment.

On appeal, the investor argued that the motion was not ripe for summary judgment. The Appellate Division noted that state law does not require the municipality to obtain an acknowledgment signature on a return receipt card. Here, the record fully supported the lower court’s conclusion that the municipality had satisfied the notice requirements by mailing notice to the tax sale certificate purchaser’s last known address. Additionally, the Court found that, in this case, the investor was actually attempting to vacate the municipality’s foreclosure judgment. To vacate a void judgment, a party must move for relief within a reasonable time. Here, the investor clearly did not file within a reasonable time.

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