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Del Vecchio v. Baron

A-3475-04T2 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2006) (Unpublished)

FORECLOSURE; TAX SALES—Claims for unfairness in a tax sale foreclosure proceeding must be made timely.

A complaint was filed to foreclose a tax sale certificate and final judgment was entered. The property owner moved to vacate the final judgment ten months later, claiming “that service was not adequate because her husband accepted the service and failed to inform her.” The lower court denied that motion explaining, “[d]elivery of a copy of the Complaint and Summons on [her husband] was effective service upon [his wife]. [They] lived together at [the property] ... [the husband’s] alleged failure to turn over to [his wife] a copy of the Summons and Complaint is an issue between them, but not a legal basis to set aside service.” Further, the lower court held that the property owner, as a licensed real estate agent who “had redeemed in prior tax sale foreclosure actions against her property, was aware of and understood the process.” Consequently, the lower court concluded that the woman “failed to establish mistake, inadvertence, surprise, excusable neglect or exceptional circumstances warranting relief” under Court Rule 4:50-1 or under prior case law. The property owner filed a motion for reconsideration, which was denied. Then, the investor obtained a writ of possession but about a month later, the lower court “filed a consent order extending the eviction date” by one month. Shortly after entering the consent order, the lower court vacated the order “on the ground that the [property owner’s] attorney had not disclosed to [the investor] his client’s intention to file an appeal.” The Appellate Division denied the property owner’s motion to appeal and dismissed the appeal. The New Jersey Supreme Court denied the property owner’s petition for certification and dismissed her appeal.

The property owner, unphased, filed a second motion for reconsideration, but to no avail. The lower court felt that the property owner was attempting to relitigate the matter. The matter went back to the Supreme Court, which again dismissed the appeal.

In this final phase of the litigation, the property owner alleged that the investor had conveyed the property for $380,000 at a time when the property had a value of $415,000 and, fourteen months later, the buyer of the property resold the property to the investor, all in return for a $15,000 gift. The property owner alleged that “the motive behind the transactions was to thwart [her] attempts to set aside the default judgment.” The lower court denied the property owner’s motion to vacate the default and denied her motion for limited discovery. The Appellate Division saw no reason to disturb the lower court’s order. It pointed out that “[t]he first of the post-judgment sales [to which the property owner] now complain[ed] took place” about twenty-one months after the date of the final judgment. According to the Court, “[t]hat subsequent and unrelated real estate transaction [could not] provide grounds for relief from the default judgment.”

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