On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Middlesex County, Docket No. F-25131-08.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Kennedy and Guadagno.
Defendant Steven Budge appeals from an order denying his motion to vacate a final judgment of foreclosure involving a tax sale certificate, and from a subsequent order denying reconsideration. The substituted plaintiff is a successor in interest to the purchaser of the tax sale certificate. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.
Steven and Janet Budge*fn1 are the owners of real property identified as Block 1082, Lot 242.11 on the tax map of the Township of Old Bridge (Township), and more commonly known as 242 Outlook Boulevard, Old Bridge, New Jersey (subject property). After the owners failed to pay the property tax on the subject property, the Township sold a tax sale certificate to Wachovia Bank, NA, as Custodian for Phoenix Funding, Inc., for $3,211.95, on March 8, 2006.
In 2008, Wachovia filed an action to foreclose on the tax sale certificate. Budge responded by filing a motion seeking an extension of time to pay the taxes. The Foreclosure Unit of the Superior Court Clerk's Office deemed Budge's filing to be an answer contesting the foreclosure. Wachovia cross-moved to strike the pleading, deny Budge's motion for additional time and return the matter to the Foreclosure Unit as an uncontested matter.
By order entered February 23, 2009, Budge's motion for additional time to pay the property taxes was denied and Wachovia's cross-motion to strike Budge's pleadings was granted. The matter was returned to the Foreclosure Unit as uncontested.
Wachovia then moved for the entry of default and sought an order setting the amount, time and place of redemption. On March 10, 2011, default was entered and an order was filed setting $41,418.12 as the amount required for redemption, plus $1,272 in costs. The order set April 26, 2011 as the redemption deadline.
Budge moved to vacate the default and Judge Ciuffani heard oral argument on April 29. Budge conceded that he had not paid taxes on the subject property since 2006, and Judge Ciuffani denied his motion, finding no basis to grant relief.
On May 4, Wachovia assigned the tax sale certificate to Arianna Holding Company for $55,000, and an order substituting Arianna as plaintiff was entered on May 25. A final judgment of foreclosure was also entered on May 25.
Budge then retained counsel and moved to vacate the final judgment and for reconsideration of the April 29 order denying his motion to vacate default. At oral argument before Judge Ciuffani, Budge claimed that Arianna was improperly substituted as plaintiff because the assignment of the tax sale certificate was completed prior to the entry of the substitution order.
Counsel for Arianna explained the connection of Arianna and Phoenix: Arianna Holding Company is an entity that is controlled by the same princip[als] as Phoenix Funding. Phoenix Funding, because of the way that they are funded - - for purchasing Tax Sale Certificates from Wachovia Bank is not permitted to hold property in that same entity as a result of their banking relationship with Wachovia.
So all of Phoenix Funding's Tax Sale Certificates as they come to fruition and if they become deeded through the entry of final judgment, upon application are always ...