Lindsey v. Neher (IN)


Summary: Tax deed issued to the purchaser in tax sale is void if notice to the owner of the property incorrectly states the date of tax sale.


Lindsey v. Neher, 988 N.E.2d 1207 (Ind. Ct. App. 2013).


Facts: Lottie E. Carmack left five parcels of real estate at her death in 1998. Her son Joshua Lindsey (Lindsey) has continued to live on the property without a formal transfer of title. There were delinquent taxes in the amount of $150. On April 9, 2012, the county conducted a tax sale and issued a tax certificate to Adam Neher (Neher). Neher subsequently published a notice of the right of redemption in a local newspaper on June 6 and June 13 of 2012. Neher also sent the notice, by certified mail, to Lottie E. Carmack, the owner of record, which was received by Lindsey. The notices, however, incorrectly stated that the date of the tax sale occurred on April 11, 2012, which was two days after the actual date of the tax sale. The notices further stated that the 120-day statutory redemption period expired on August 11, 2012, starting the count from April 11, 2012. When Lindsey tendered the payment to redeem the property on August 9, 2011, the county refused to accept it, contending that the actual redemption period had run one day earlier. Neher petitioned for a tax deed, and the trial court ordered the county to issue a tax deed to Neher. A hearing on Lindsey’s petition to rescind the deed was conducted, but the trial court maintained the previous ruling. Lindsey appealed.   


Holding: Reversed. In Indiana, a tax sale of property is governed by state statutes enacted in accordance with the due process requirements of the U.S. Constitution. Notice must be given before one is deprived of a property interest. The relevant statutes require a petitioner for a tax deed to give the owner of the property the following three notices: 1) notice of sale, Ind. Code § 6-1.1-24-4 (West 2012), 2) notice of the right of redemption, Ind. Code § 6-1.1-25-4.5 (West 2007), and 3) notice of petition for tax deed, Ind. Code § 6-1.1-25-4.6 (West 2013). The notice of the right of redemption, in particular, must contain the date of tax sale as well as the date on which the petitioner intends to petition for a tax deed. Ind. Code § 6-1.1-25-4.5(e) (West 2007). If proper notice was given and the redemption period expired without redemption, then the petitioner is entitled to a tax deed. Ind. Code § 6-1.1-24-4.5(a) (West 2007). If notice was not in substantial compliance with the statutory requisites, however, the tax deed becomes void. Ind. Code § 6-1.1-25-16(7) (West 2013).

Here, the redemption notice misstated the date of the tax sale, and as a result, miscalculated the date on which the redemption period expired. The notice cannot be considered constitutionally adequate because it does not reasonably meet “the practicalities and peculiarities of the case.” Mullane v. Cent. Hanover Bank & Trust Co., 339 U.S. 306, 314–15 (1950). While the mistake was not a result of fraud, treating it as adequate could invite fraud in future cases. Neher failed to substantially comply with statutes governing the tax sale. Thus, the tax deed issued to Neher, due to the insufficient notice given to Lindsey, was void and invalid.

Lindsey is entitled to equitable relief. The case was remanded to the trial court for an order directing the county to accept the redemption payment tendered by Lindsey.


Opinion Year: 
By: ATG Underwriting Department | Posted on: Wed, 10/02/2013 - 2:17pm