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Township of Kingwood v. Block 1.02, Lot 4

2005 WL 2877762 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2005) (Unpublished)

TAX SALES; NOTICE—Service of a foreclosure complaint may be made upon a managing or general agent employed by the property owner for the management of its real property.

A municipality retained a tax sale certificate because it could not find a buyer for it. After the requisite waiting period, it initiated an in rem tax foreclosure and it obtained a final judgment of foreclosure. Then, the property owner appealed from the order based on his allegation of improper service of process. The municipality and the property had a long history because of the property’s “derelict condition.” The property owner, who resided in London, England, had considerable communications with the municipality, both directly, and through his attorney concerning the unsafe structure. Nonetheless, it wasn’t until more than a year after the municipality obtained its judgment of foreclosure that it received any further communication from the property owner or his representative. In the property owner’s certification, he confirmed that he relied on “a local property manager” to look after the property. The proof of service in the foreclosure proceeding confirmed that the complaint and summons were personally served on that property manager. Under Court Rule 4:4-4, service may be made by “made upon a managing or general agent employed for the management of real property.” With the property owner’s admission that the individual who had been served was helping to manage the property at all relevant times in question, the Court Rule was satisfied. Moreover, the municipality “properly published notice of the In Rem Foreclosure.” Further, by New Jersey statute, “[n]o application shall be entertained to reopen [a tax foreclosure] judgment after three months from the date of the recording thereof in the office of the county recording officer, and then only upon grounds of lack of jurisdiction or fraud in the conduct of the action.” Not only did the property owner file his application to vacate the final judgment more than a year and a half after the entry of final judgment, he didn’t plead fraud or lack of jurisdiction. Further, the property owner failed to demonstrate “any other reason justifying relief from the operation of the judgment or order,” which, had the Court accepted such a reason, would have permitted the Court to vacate the judgment of foreclosure. Based upon the record, the Appellate Division agreed with the lower court that the judgment of foreclosure should stand.

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