REDEMPTION OF TAX TITLES

General Laws c. 60 § 62 provides a statutory scheme for the redemption of land taken for taxes.  Section 62 provides in relevant part that "...[a]ny person having an interest in land taken or sold for nonpayment of taxes... at any time prior to the filing of a petition for foreclosure...may redeem the same by paying or tendering to the treasurer the amount of the tax title account of the land being redeemed..." M.G.L. c. 60 §62 (emphasis added).  This section would appear to suggest that a taxpayer must redeem prior to the foreclosure sale and according to an inflexible statutory procedure.   However, in the caselaw appurtenant to section 68 of chapter 60, the Supreme Judicial Court makes it clear that the statutory procedure provided in §68 should take a back seat to the legislature's aim of engendering the redemption of realty in tax title.

In Town of Lynnfield v. Owner's Unknown, 397 Mass. 470, 492 N.E.2d 86 (1986), the Supreme Judicial Court was asked to review a decision of the Land Court foreclosing the rights of redemption of a taxpayer ready to redeem its realty in Lynnfield. Town of Lynnfield v. Owner's Unknown, 492 N.E.2d 86 at 88.  After trial, the land court judge entered a decree foreclosing all rights of redemption in the subject realty notwithstanding the taxpayer's ability to pay the outstanding amounts due. Id at 88.  The trial judge's holding was based on her determination that "...G.L. c. 60 vested her with complete discretion to deny the [taxpayer's] motion to redeem the property..." Id at 88.  In reversing the trial court, Justice O'Connor promulgated a more restrictive interpretation of §68.  He found that the discretion contemplated by the legislature in drafting the statute was not absolute. Rather such discretion was "...limited to determining a party's ownership interest in the property and his or her financial capability to redeem, and to setting the terms of redemption...". Id at 89. The Court noted in dicta that M.G.L. c. 60 was designed with a singular purpose;