In Missouri, the county tax collector conducts an annual sale each August of real property on which tax payments have been delinquent. The owner of the property sold for taxes has a one-year redemption right in which he must pay the purchase price plus the cost of the sale and interest to the county collector in order to keep the property. The purchaser of the property at a tax sale receives a certificate of purchase at the time of the sale, but does not receive legal title until the owner’s one-year redemption period has lapsed and the purchaser exercises his right to have legal title transferred. In order to acquire the deed to the property, the purchaser must comply with the notice requirements set forth in Section 140.405, RSMo., or the purchaser will lose all interest in the property.
The Missouri Supreme Court recently issued a decision which clarified the notice requirements set forth in Section 140.420. In Sneil, LLC v. Tybe Learning Center, Inc., the Court held that the only requirements necessary for a tax sale purchaser to give sufficient notice to the owner of the property are that notice must be given at least 90 days prior to the one-year anniversary of the tax sale and the notice must inform the owner of the right to redeem the property. The purchaser need not inform the owner of the procedures required to redeem or the time period required.
In Sneil, Sneil was the purchaser of a parcel of property owned by Tybe and sold at a tax sale on August 28, 2006. Tybe received a letter of notice by certified mail on August 28, 2007. The letter stated that Tybe should contact the collection division of the St. Louis County Department of Revenue about redemption. The notice did not include a specific redemption period expiration date or a length of time that Tybe had to redeem the property. The Circuit Court concluded that since the notice failed to inform Tybe of how long he had to exercise the right of redemption, the notice failed to comply with the notice requirements of Section 140.405. Consequently, Sneil lost all interest in the property and appealed the judgment. In its recent opinion, the Supreme Court agreed with the Circuit Court and concluded that while the content of the notice was sufficient, Sneil lost all interest in the property because he failed to comply with the timing standard of Section 140.405.
Both owners and purchasers in tax sales need to understand their legal rights. The Supreme Court’s recent opinion in Sneil helps to clarify the law and give guidance in the area of tax sales.