SJC: TALLAGE LINCOLN, LLC v. JESSYE L. WILLIAMS

KeywordsReal Property, Tax lien, Tax title, Assignment of tax title, Foreclosure of tax title. Taxation, Real estate tax: tax taking, Tax lien, Real estate tax: foreclosure of tax lien, Real estate tax: assignment of tax title, Real estate tax: redemption, Real estate tax: foreclosure of right of redemption

[Synopsis] – “GANTS, C.J.  In 2011, Jessye Williams, Jessie Williams, III, and George Wortham (owners) failed to pay the real estate taxes on their New Bedford home.  As a result, the city of New Bedford (city) took tax title to the property in November 2011, pursuant to G. L. c. 60, §§ 53-54.  The owners subsequently did not pay their real estate taxes in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015, and each year, these taxes were added to the amount due in the city’s tax title account.  In May 2016, Tallage Lincoln, LLC (Tallage), a for-profit entity in the business of acquiring tax titles from municipalities, was the successful bidder at a tax title auction conducted by the city, and the city assigned Tallage its tax title to the property.  Later in 2016, Tallage initiated proceedings to foreclose (i.e., terminate) the owners’ right to redeem the property.  The owners filed a timely answer to the petition, exercising their right of redemption.  In 2018, Tallage asked the Land Court to find the redemption amount that the owners would need to pay to avoid losing their home.  Tallage requested that the redemption amount include the real estate taxes owed to the city at the time that Tallage was assigned the tax title account in 2016; the real estate taxes that Tallage itself had paid on the property in 2016, 2017, and 2018; the statutory interest rate of sixteen percent per year on the unpaid real estate taxes and the taxes paid by Tallage; and Tallage’s legal fees.  A Land Court judge rejected Tallage’s requested finding, ruling that the statutory scheme set forth in G. L. c. 60, § 52, did not permit assignees of tax title accounts, such as Tallage, to include their own subsequent tax payments in the amount required for redemption.  The judge noted that if the owner paid the redemption amount, § 52 assignees could seek to recover those payments through a lien on the property.  Tallage appealed from the decision, and we transferred the appeal to this court on our own motion.  For the reasons that follow, we affirm the judge’s decision.”  –  Click here for the SJC’s full decision. 

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