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Monroe Township Municipal Utilities Authorities v. Consolidated Apartments

June 13, 2006

MONROE TOWNSHIP MUNICIPAL UTILITIES AUTHORITIES, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
CONSOLIDATED APARTMENTS, INC., A CORPORATION OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, AND THEIR HEIRS, DEVISES, PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVES, AND HIS, HER, THEIR AND ANY OF THEIR SUCCESSORS IN RIGHT, TITLE AND INTEREST AND ALL THEIR SUCCESSORS AND ASSIGNS; TOWNSHIP OF MONROE, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, ITS SUCCESSORS AND ASSIGNS, AND THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Middlesex County, F-19374-04.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: R. B. Coleman, J.A.D.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

APPROVED FOR PUBLICATION

Submitted December 13, 2005

Before Judges Kestin, R. B. Coleman and Seltzer.

Defendant, Consolidated Apartments, Inc. (Consolidated), appeals from an order denying its motion for summary judgment in a foreclosure proceeding and granting the cross-motion for summary judgment filed by plaintiff, Monroe Township Municipal Utilities Authorities (MTMUA). We affirm.

The parties' statements of material facts disclose that Consolidated acquired title to the subject real property in Monroe Township, Middlesex County, by deed of conveyance dated September 15, 1971. Eleven years later, at a sale of lands for unpaid municipal liens, Monroe Township (the Township) purchased the subject premises in fee simple subject to redemption and it received a certificate of tax sale dated October 15, 1982.*fn1 That certificate was recorded in the Middlesex County Clerk's Office on July 8, 1994. Nothing of consequence occurred between the date of the tax sale in 1982 and the date of its recordation in 1994.

On July 7, 2003, approximately twenty-one years after its purchase of the tax sale certificate, the Township passed a resolution in accordance with N.J.S.A. 54:5-113 to authorize the assignment of the certificate by private sale to MTMUA. Subject to exceptions not relevant in this matter, N.J.S.A. 54:5-113 states:

When a municipality has or shall have acquired the title to real estate by reason of its having been struck off and sold to the municipality at a sale for delinquent taxes and assessments, the governing body thereof may by resolution authorize a private sale of the certificate of tax sale therefor, together with subsequent liens thereon, for not less than the amount of liens charged against such real estate[.]

The authorizing resolution was memorialized on August 4, 2003, and MTMUA, an entity separate and distinct from the Township, paid the Township $13,781.80 for the assignment. That sum represented the certificate amount, plus interest, recording fees, subsequent taxes and interest, current taxes and interest through August 5, 2003 and legal fees. After it obtained the certificate, plaintiff paid the property taxes through the first quarter of 2005.*fn2

On November 5, 2004, plaintiff filed a complaint in foreclosure naming as defendants Consolidated, the record owner of the property, the Township of Monroe and the State of New Jersey. The complaint alleged that any claims or interests of the named defendants in the subject land and premises were subject to the lien of plaintiff's certificate of sale. Plaintiff, therefore, demanded judgment fixing the amount due on its certificate and requiring payment of that amount due with interest and costs. In default of such payment, plaintiff demanded that defendants and all persons claiming through and under them be debarred and foreclosed from all equity and right of redemption in the property and that possession and title of the property be transferred to plaintiff.

Consolidated answered the complaint and denied that its interest in the premises was subject to plaintiff's certificate of tax sale. Consolidated then moved for summary judgment, asserting that the certificate was void because the right to redeem had not been foreclosed within twenty years after its purchase by the Township. Plaintiff cross-moved for summary judgment. Following the denial of Consolidated's motion and the grant of plaintiff's cross-motion for summary judgment, Consolidated appealed.

The critical issue presented in the cross-motions and in this appeal is whether or not an assignee of a certificate of tax sale from a municipality is precluded from foreclosing the right of redemption where the municipality held the certificate for more than twenty years before assigning it to an assignee.

Plaintiff and Consolidated both agree that the resolution of that issue is governed by N.J.S.A. 54:5-79, but they disagree as to the import of the language. ...


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