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Rhode Island Man’s Challenge to Tax Sale is Rejected by the State Supreme Court

Rhode Island property owners know that some of the unfortunate side effects of property ownership include utility payments and property taxes. If a property owner fails to pay taxes or utilities for a significant period of time, the jurisdiction owed the monies may seek to perform a tax sale of the property. The proceeds of a sold property would then be used to pay the owed monies to any lienholders. The Rhode Island Supreme Court recently heard a case in which a man was challenging the tax sale of his property which had already occurred.

The plaintiff in the recently decided case is a man who previously owned property in Central Falls, Rhode Island. The plaintiff’s property was subject to a tax sale based upon debts owed to the Pawtucket Water Supply Board. The defendant, a real estate company, purchased the property at the tax sale. The defendant waited the requisite one year for the owner of the property to step forward before taking further action. In 2016, the defendant proceeded with an action to foreclose on the previous owner’s right of redemption and take full ownership of the property.

After the foreclosure process started, the plaintiff discovered what was happening and filed suit against the defendant, seeking to prevent the property transfer. The defendant responded that the plaintiff was sent notice of the foreclosure action, and also served by a constable. The plaintiff maintained that the defendant needed to include a “language assistance notice” with the foreclosure service documents for it to be valid and enforceable. The trial court rejected the plaintiff’s arguments, holding that the law concerning foreclosure actions does not require the inclusion of a language assistance notice with the service documents. Although the plaintiff appealed the ruling, it was affirmed by the State Supreme Court based on a clear application of the law. Although the court did not reverse the lower decision, it did encourage the state legislature to amend the relevant law to require such notice to be served for future cases.

Tax sales and foreclosures may threaten the ownership rights of Rhode Island property owners. As each step of the foreclosure process is completed, it gets more difficult for the owner to prevent the loss of their property. Anyone receiving a notice of a tax sale, seriously delinquent taxes or utility bills, or a foreclosure action, should reach out to a qualified Rhode Island real estate attorney as soon as possible to evaluate their situation and prevent losing ownership of their property.

Are You Facing a Tax Sale or Foreclosure?

If you or someone you know is facing tax sale or foreclosure proceedings, having a competent Rhode Island real estate lawyer by your side will help. The experienced attorneys at Bilodeau Capalbo have helped hundreds of clients with a variety of real estate issues in Rhode Island, including tax sales and foreclosures. Contact our offices today and schedule a free consultation by calling 401-300-4055. We represent clients throughout Rhode Island in all types of real estate and property disputes.

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