Tax Foreclosure:  County May Not Rely on Index of Register of Deeds Records

In Richardson v Spark Investment, LLC, an unpublished Michigan Court of Appeals opinion, the plaintiff purchased five lots in Westland and duly recorded his deed with the Wayne County Register of Deeds.  However, the property transfer affidavit was filed only for two of the five lots.  Tax bills were sent to the Plaintiff for the two lots, but tax bills were sent to the prior owner for the remaining three lots.  The taxes went unpaid.  Plaintiff apparently became aware of the delinquent taxes in time to pay for two of the three lots, but did not become aware of the tax foreclosure on the fifth lot until after it had been foreclosed.  Plaintiff filed suit seeking to set aside the tax foreclosure because of a lack of notice (due process grounds).  The county defended on the basis that it provided notice to the addresses on the county tax records.  The trial court agreed and granted summary disposition in favor of the county and the ultimate purchaser of the lot. 

The Court of Appeals reversed, and entered summary judgment in favor of the Plaintiff.  The court found that the tax statutes required the County to review not just the tax records but the register of deeds records for addresses for notice. A review of the register of deeds’ records whould have revealed Plaintiff’s interest in the property, as well as his business address.  Because no notice was provided to Plaintiff at the address stated in the deed, due process was not satisfied.

© Steve Sowell 2017