On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Passaic County, Docket No. F-12220-04.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Stern, Lyons and Waugh.
Cherrystone Bay, LLC, appeals from the judgment of the Chancery Division, General Equity Part, denying its application to intervene in this tax-sale foreclosure action. Cherrystone also appeals the trial court's refusal to vacate the final judgment of foreclosure and dismiss the action for defective service of process. We affirm.
The following factual background is found in the record. On November 3, 2000, Jack R. Sangle, Jr., transferred title to the residential property located at 26 Jefferson Avenue in Pompton Lakes to J&S Management Enterprises, Inc., which was a closely-held corporation. It appears that the sole purpose of J&S was to hold title to the Jefferson Avenue property, which was Jack's residence.
Jack died in September 2002.*fn1 It appears that he left no will and no one sought to administer his estate. Jack was divorced at the time of his death. He had one child, Colleen Sangle, who resided with her mother, Pamela Sangle, in California. Pamela was aware that Jack owned the Jefferson Avenue property. Following a discussion with an attorney in California after Jack's death, Pamela made the decision not to pursue any interest that her minor daughter might have in the property. It appears that she did not know that title was held through a corporation.
Following Jack's death, no one occupied or maintained the Jefferson Avenue property. In addition, the property taxes were not paid. On April 8, 2003, the Borough of Pompton Lakes held a tax sale on the property for unpaid taxes dating from 2002. Plaintiff B&B Realty Associates, LLC, purchased the tax-sale certificate for $5,726.77.
On July 14, 2004, B&B filed a complaint to foreclose the tax-sale certificate, alleging that the property was "abandoned" within the meaning of N.J.S.A. 55:19-81. B&B specifically relied upon the provisions of N.J.S.A. 54:5-86(b), which permit the filing of a tax-sale foreclosure action with respect to an "abandoned property" at any time.
In August of 2004, counsel for B&B attempted to serve Jack as the registered agent for J&S. R. 4:4-4(a)(6). When service on Jack could not be effectuated, counsel served the New Jersey Department of Treasury on behalf of J&S. N.J.S.A. 2A:15-30.1.
The foreclosure action proceeded as an uncontested matter and an order was entered on November 22, 2004, setting the amount, time, and place of redemption for the property. The amount of redemption was set at $18,926.91, plus any additional interest and taxes incurred prior to the close of the redemption period on January 10, 2005.
Cherrystone, which is in the business of buying properties subject to foreclosure, became interested in the Jefferson Avenue property and employed Sterling Investigative Services to locate Jack's relatives. Sterling located Pamela and Colleen. By contract dated January 10, 2005, Cherrystone entered into an agreement with Pamela, as the natural guardian of her minor daughter Colleen, for the purchase of Colleen's interest in the property.*fn2 The total purchase price was to be $105,000. Pamela, working through an attorney recommended by Cherrystone, attempted to effectuate the redemption of the property on January 10, 2005. The redemption funds, which came directly from Cherrystone, were an advance on the purchase price for Colleen's interest in the Jefferson Avenue property.
In a letter dated January, 11, 2005, the tax collector informed B&B that the property had been redeemed. B&B challenged the redemption, arguing that the funds had not come from a party to the foreclosure action. See R. 4:64-6(b). The tax collector agreed with B&B and denied the redemption. On January 21, 2005, a final judgment was entered, divesting J&S of ...