Zinvest, LLC v. Anderson, 2015 MT 204 (July 21, 2015) (Rice, J.) (5-0, aff’d)
Issue: Whether Carbon County properly complied with the procedural requirements of the tax statutes.
Short Answer: No. The procedural requirements in the tax deed statutes must be strictly observed. The documents in this transaction contain several errors that violated the statutes.
Facts: After Donna Anderson failed to pay taxes on her property in Carbon County, the county conducted a tax lien sale in July 2009 and acquired the property. On Aug. 30, 2011 Zinvest mailed a notice to Anderson informing her of its intent to buy the lien from the county if the taxes were not paid within two weeks. Anderson did not pay, and Zinvest bought the lien.
Zinvest obtained a property title guarantee and sent a notice to Anderson, who was occupying the property, and to the county treasurer that a tax deed may issue. On Aug. 14, 2012, after the redemption period ended and Anderson failed to pay the back taxes, Zinvest applied for a tax deed, which was issued by the Carbon County Treasurer. Zinvest recorded the deed and initiated this quiet title action.
Procedural Posture & Holding: Zinvest and Anderson filed cross-motions for summary judgment. Based on evidence that the county had never recorded a tax lien sale certificate or alternative list, the court vacated its original judgment and granted Anderson’s motion for summary judgment. Zinvest appeals, and the Supreme Court affirms.
Reasoning: Neither of the two documents relied upon by Zinvest comply with the statutes. The Untitled Document states that the property assessed and described as attached was struck off to the county but refers to an “attached described parcel of land” for which $144 was owed, but the attachment lists multiple properties. The second document, entitled Assignment of Tax Sale Certificate, cannot be a tax lien certificate as Zinvest argues. Zinvest was not the purchaser at the tax lien sale and cannot receive a tax lien certificate.