“The General Assembly does not have the authority to codify away constitutional protections. Therefore, despite the language of Indiana Code section 6-1.1-24-4, the Auditor was required to search its records for a better address for Trust 4340 after the certified mail notice was returned as not deliverable,” Baker wrote for the panel. The panel also rejected the auditor’s argument that its notice efforts were reasonable because of Dellaportas’ failure to update his office address.
Essentially, the court confirmed that upon a failure of return of a certified mailing for a tax sale notice, or if returned, that it was not deliverable, the Auditor was required to search its records for a better address.
However, how is that objectively defined?
At a minimum, it seems that counties often vary in how their records are maintained, so a clearer standard may be impossible which doesn’t bode well for creating efficiencies for investors, their advisors, and other stakeholders.
Given the ease of a simple Google search, could that be required?
Even though it may not technically be within the records of the Auditor, it may be easier to access than the internal records! But then, this could cut either way. One may be able to find a clearer indication of a party’s current mailing address or the results could be various and further confuse the issue.
And, how can the extent of the research be verified?
Outside of personally reviewing the returned cards associated with each property, there doesn’t seem to be a system which summarizes the status of such for each interested party, in this case, the most important party, the owner at the time of the tax sale.
Aside, and although the author is no fan of property taxes, if they must exist, then it would seem better to put the onus on the owner to maintain a current address for such mailings and to confirm it annually – perhaps most easily through an electronic system maintained by the county assessor.
Such a system may provide a more objective and equitable process for reducing the vagueness and inefficiencies associated with the current custom and requirements; thus, reducing the chance for the unexpected expense of mistake and litigation – total ROI killers.
In any event, the status quo and such court decisions support the importance of quickly obtaining a quiet title order after receiving a tax deed to best settle any ambiguity with local processes and whether they were completed per internal guidelines and in accordance with applicable case law.
Note: The views expressed are solely the opinion of the author.
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Source: The Indiana Lawyer