Comments on MITCHELL v. CURRY

This is a most interesting Alabama property tax case for the following reasons:

1. Notice was challenged AFTER the tax deed had been issued but before the purchaser held possession for three years.

Property in question Sold to State at local tax sale in May 2004. The State issued a tax deed in July 2007. Complaint was filed June 2008.

My non-legal mind makes me think that had the validity of the tax sale challenge (insufficient notice in this case) come after the purchaser had maintained possession for three years, he might have been in the clear.

2. The purchaser (CURRY) appears to have acted in good faith.

From reading the case, there does not appear to be any malice or intent to deceive on the part of the purchaser. This tells me that (a) there is a big problem with the system or (b) the mishap was the fault of another party, THUS……

3. Collection officials beware!

As pointed out above, the purchaser seems to have “followed all the rules”, yet still incurred significant financial loss ($16,646.00). If the court ruled that the tax sale was invalid because of insufficient or improper notice, that liability falls squarely on the shoulders of the official charged with sending out the notices or advertising—-normally the collection official. Code Section 40-10-75 seems to make it clear that there is some liability on the part of the official.

The purchaser (CURRY) can obviously pursue at least a couple of remedies: (a) take this to the Alabama Supreme Court or (b) take action against the official charged with noticing.

For potential investors, the challenge here is how to protect any rents received during an interim period before a successful quiet title action.

For collection officials, the challenge is how to maximize the legality of notice without exceeding budgetary constraints.