LOW VALUE TAX TITLE FORECLOSURES

Low tax title foreclosure procedure is used to aid municipalities to foreclose tax tittles and collect taxes due them. After 90 days from the tax title, the treasurer may apply to the Commissioner of Revenue for the determination that the value of the property in insufficient to meet the taxes, interest and fees, including the cost of foreclosure, and subsequent taxes and assessments. If the Commissioner determines that the value of the property value does not exceed $5,000.00 and issues an Affidavit of Low Value, the town may hold a public auction in order to foreclose the tax title. If the treasurer's deed is recorded within 15 days from the sale, M.G.L.A c.60 §79 provides that the purchaser's title becomes absolute upon recording. To address the issues of constitutionality of low value tax title foreclosures, the legislature enacted M.G.L.A. c.60 §80B, which established a judicial procedure in the Land Court with proper notice to those who may have an equitable interest in the land involved, by the present title holder wishing to affirm the "low value" tax title. In 1986 section 80C was added to the statute, which provided that a deed from the town after the "low value" procedure would be valid 20 years after its recording despite the fact that the "notice or procedure for the taking and sale or conveyance" may be defective. (Please note though the holding in Sheriff's Meadow Foundation, Inc. v. Bay-Courte Edgartown, Inc., where the Supreme Judicial Court stated that a "tax sale curing statute M.G.L.A. cannot cure defect founded on the want of title; it is designed to correct defects, irregularities, and omissions in procedure or instrument of taking" Therefore, "the statute cannot supply title which did not exist at the time of taking). Title Standard No.4 further validated tax titles over 20 years old as long as the proper person had been assessed and the land description was satisfactory to pass title.

For more discussion, see Eno and Hovey, Massachusetts Practice " Real Estate Law with Forms, West Publishing Co (Third Edition, 1995), §12.17 and 12.18, and Massachusetts Conveyancers Association, Inc. Title Standard No. 4