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One Year Redemption Cap for Tax-Foreclosure Does Not Apply if Due Process Denied

In Ithaca Finance, LLC v. Lopez (Decision and Order, January 3, 2022), the Massachusetts Land Court allowed Defendant’s motion to vacate a 2016 Judgment and found that Defendant could redeem the property at issue in accordance with M.G.L. c. 60, § 68.

The Land Court entered a judgment in June 2016 against Defendant (and interested party Wells Fargo Financial Massachusetts) allowing foreclosure by Plaintiff on Defendant’s property due to non-payment of real estate taxes, but Defendant had the right to “pay a ‘redemption amount’ and reclaim her home.” The Land Court explained M.G.L. c. 60, § 69A “gives persons holding an interest in real property one year from the date of entry of a tax-foreclosure judgment to do that.” Thereafter, “the judgment is final and can be vacated only upon a showing of a denial of due process.” (Quoting Tallage Lincoln, LLC v. Williams).

In 2019, Defendant sought to vacate the 2016 judgment. Defendant alleged that a June 2017 letter from Plaintiff was the first time she became aware that Plaintiff had pursued foreclosure. Plaintiff had brought a suit to foreclose in 2014. According to M.G.L. c. 60, § 66, Defendant should have received notice of the action by registered mail. Due to a series of errors, Defendant did not receive proper notice of the action prior to entry of the 2016 judgment. One year later, Defendant received a letter from Plaintiff stating Defendant was no longer the owner of the property and rent needed to be paid.

Ultimately, the Land Court allowed Defendant’s motion to vacate the 2016 Judgment and denied Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment. The Court found that “failure to provide statutory notice to a property’s owner, prior to entry of a tax-foreclosure judgment extinguishing that owner’s right of redemption, constitutes a denial of due process sufficient to support an order vacating that judgment.” (Citing Town of No. Reading v. Welch). Further, the Land Court thoroughly disposed of Plaintiff’s argument that Defendant’s motion to vacate was unreasonably delayed.

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