Purchaser of tax liens brought action to foreclose tax sale certificates. Purchaser moved for summary judgment. Superior Court, Chancery Division, Sussex County, MacKenzie, P.J.Ch., held that: (1) court would invoke its equitable powers to set aside tax sale certificate, and (2) taxpayer should have paid taxes pending appeal.
Motion denied in part, and carried in part.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: MacKENZIE, P.J.Ch.
On January 7, 1994, the court heard oral argument on plaintiff's motions for summary judgment. The court now denies the motion as against Western World and carries the motion without date as against Cheyenne, for the reasons set forth below.
These are actions for judgments in foreclosure upon two tax sale certificates, pursuant to N.J.S.A 54:5-85 to 54:5-104. The two lots subject to these foreclosure actions are Block 365, Lot 5 and Block 365, Lot; 17, located in Byram Township (hereinafter Lot 5 and Lot 17). Liens were placed on the property for failure to pay taxes for the years of 1983 and 1985. Defendants appealed, claiming that the property was entitled to farmland assessment.
The tax liens were sold by Byram Township to plaintiff in 1986. At that time, defendants filed an order to show cause to restrain the sale, claiming that Byram wrongfully denied farmland assessment. Restraints were denied and the complaint was dismissed based upon a finding by Judge Reginald Stanton that no immediate, irreparable harm would result from the sale of the subject tax certificates. No appeal ensued.
A single certificate was sold to plaintiff for alleged unpaid taxes on Lot 5 for the years of 1983 and 1985, in the amount of $29,368.47. A single certificate was sold to plaintiff for unpaid taxes on Lot 17 for the same years in the amount of $20,040.31.
In 1988, the Supreme Court ruled that Lot 5 and Lot 17 were entitled to farmland assessment for 1983. Byram Township v. Western World, et al., 111 N.J. 222, 544 A.2d 37 (1988). In December 1993, the Appellate Division ruled that Lot 5 was entitled to farmland assessment for 1985, but not Lot 17.
The tax collector credited an overpayment of taxes to the years 1983 and 1985 pursuant to N.J.S.A. 54:4-134. As a result, there are no outstanding taxes against either lots for 1983 and no outstanding taxes against Lot 5 for 1985. It is unknown whether defendants owe taxes on Lot 17 for 1985 since an overpayment of tax was made on Lot 17 for 1983 and 1984. The tax collector is currently calculating whether there are outstanding taxes against Lot 17 for the year of 1985.
Plaintiff now seeks to foreclose the tax sale certificates for Lots 5 and 17. There are no material facts in dispute.*fn1
A municipality is empowered to sell lands for unpaid taxes or any municipal lien pursuant to N.J.S.A. 54:5-19; See also Nordell v. Mantua Twp., 45 N.J.Super. 253, 256, 132 A.2d 39 (Ch.Div.1957). N.J.S.A. 54:5-52 provides:
The certificate of sale shall be presumptive evidence in all courts in all proceedings by and against the purchaser . . . of the truth of the statements therein, of the title of the purchaser to the land therein described, and the regularity and validity of all proceedings had in reference to the sale. After two years from the record of certificate of sale, no evidence shall be admitted in any court to rebut the presumption, unless the holder thereof shall have procured it by fraud, or had previous knowledge that it was fraudulently made or procured.
Plaintiff asks the court to interpret the statute strictly and preclude any evidence that challenges the validity of the liens. Plaintiff argues that the tax sale certificates and liens are valid and enforceable and a judgment in foreclosure should be rendered. Plaintiff cites to no cases mandating a strict interpretation of the conclusive presumption and ...