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Thursday, December 04, 2014

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court decides two today

In In Re: The Carroll County 2013 Tax Sale: Twin Lakes Regional Sewer District v. Richard C. Ray and Patricia A. Alford, et. al., a 6-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice Dickson writes:

After two landowners, delinquent in paying fees and penalties owed to a regional sewer district, successfully petitioned the Carroll County Circuit Court to remove their properties from the list of properties subject to a tax sale, the lienholder sewer district appealed, challenging the trial court's interpretation of IC 13-26-14-4. We hold that the statute does not apply to prohibit a tax sale of these properties. * * *

We recognize the landowners' earnest opposition to their property being subject to regional sewer district fees and their belief that the legislature's enactment of the lien foreclosure prohibition clause provided them with immunity in the absence of other liens. We must be guided, however, by the language enacted and thus find that, while it precludes the foreclosure of assessed regional sewer district fee liens when such liens are the only liens on a property, this preclusion does not extend to collection of such fees and charges by tax sale.

Conclusion. The lien foreclosure prohibition of IC 13-26-14-4, governing the collection of regional sewer district sewer liens, does not apply to collection by tax sale. Here, because the District employed the tax sale method and did not seek collection of the Appellees' unpaid sewer bills and penalties through the lien foreclosure method, the lien foreclosure prohibition clause does not apply. The judgment of the trial court removing the Ray and Alford properties from the tax sale list is reversed, and this cause is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

In In Re: The Carroll County 2012 Tax Sale: Twin Lakes Regional Sewer District v. Steven E. Hruska, Virginia Hanna, et. al., a 2-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice Dickson writes in full:
The facts in this case parallel those of Twin Lakes v. Ray, 08S04-1402-MI-97, __ N.E.3d __ (Ind. 2014), which we contemporaneously issue today. In both cases, the same trial court granted landowners' requests to remove their properties from the list of properties subject to tax sale, and Twin Lakes Regional Sewer District appealed, challenging the trial court's interpretation of IC 13-26-14-4. For the same reasons expressed today in Ray, we also reverse the judgment of the trial court in the present case.

As we hold today in Ray, the lien foreclosure prohibition of IC 13-26-14-4, governing the collection of regional sewer district sewer liens, does not apply to collection by tax sale. Here, because the District employed the tax sale method rather than seeking collection of the landowners' unpaid sewer bills and penalties through foreclosure, the lien fore-closure prohibition clause does not apply. The judgment of the trial court removing the land-owners' properties from the tax sale list is reversed, and this cause is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 4, 2014 11:45 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions