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Township of Raritan v. Rotante

Decided: October 3, 1966.

TOWNSHIP OF RARITAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOSEPH ROTANTE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS



Horn, J.s.c.

Horn

This is a motion to open a final judgment entered in favor of plaintiff Township of Raritan (township) pursuant to the In Rem Tax Foreclosure Act, N.J.S.A. 54:5-104.29 et seq. and to permit redemption. The judgment is claimed to be invalid because of alleged fraud on the part of certain township officials and because of alleged lack of jurisdiction in the court.

The following history is derived directly or inferentially from the moving papers of Anthony Pedecine (defendant). On April 4, 1952 defendant purchased from township at public sale an assignment of tax sale certificate No. 276 bearing date December 21, 1935, which had been originally sold to township, covering lots 7 and 10, block 32A, as shown on the applicable tax maps. The price paid by defendant included all taxes due on said certificate to April 1, 1952, together with interest and costs. He caused the assignment to be recorded August 6, 1956. By virtue of N.J.S.A. 54:5-114.4 defendant was required to record a judgment of foreclosure within two years from the date of the confirmation of the sale by the governing body or within such time to which same might have been extended. N.J.S.A. 54:5-114.5. The township extended the time to March 21, 1957, but still no such judgment was recorded.

Defendant continued to pay taxes on the lots through the year 1960 and continued to be billed for said taxes through 1962. He also occupied the premises during this time.

Apparently upon the realization that his interest in the land under the assignment was extinguished (N.J.S.A. 54:5-114.5) he sought a method of acquiring the title. Consequently, in 1961 he consulted with the tax collector and mayor of the township. They advised him that they would place the tax certificate for the year 1962 on sale in due course and would advise him of the date of the sale.

Defendant says that he deliberately failed to pay the taxes after 1960 in reliance upon the representations thus made.

Contrary to the promises made by the township officials, he was not advised of the sale of the certificate nor was a new certificate issued. Instead, the township commenced the instant action December 11, 1963 against the subject premises without notice to defendant. Final judgment was entered November 18, 1964.

On May 19, 1966 defendant filed this motion after endeavoring without success to purchase the lots in question from the township or to "redeem" from the effect of the judgment.

The township has filed no answering affidavits. It apparently does not dispute the factual contentions of defendant. It argues two points. First, that defendant has no status or standing which warrants his securing the relief he seeks. Second, he is out of time in his application.

The complaint shows that the township foreclosed on exactly the same tax sale certificate that was previously assigned by it to defendant. It maintains that by virtue of N.J.S.A. 54:5-114.4 and 114.5 defendant's right, title and interest in the certificate reverted to the municipality after March 21, 1957 since he failed to record the judgment of foreclosure.

The township relies on Cannici v. Scott, 20 N.J. Super. 97 (Ch. Div. 1952), which determined that pursuant to the statutes last above referred to, upon the failure of the assignee from a municipality of a tax sale certificate to record a judgment of foreclosure within the time permitted, he had no interest in the property sufficient to give him the standing to secure the opening of a final judgment of foreclosure. It was also decided in that case that the fact the assignee was in possession of the land gave him no basis to redeem from the foreclosure. Specifically, the court held that an occupant of land within the meaning of N.J.S. 54:5-54 referred only to one having a lawful right or interest in the land.

Defendant cites Realty Sales Corp. v. Payne, 76 N.J. Super. 59 (Ch. Div. 1962), affirmed 78 N.J. Super. 504 (App. Div. 1963), as authority ...


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