Amdt14.S1.4.15.5 Sufficiency and Manner of Giving Notice

Fourteenth Amendment, Section 1:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Notice of tax assessments or liabilities, insofar as it is required, may be either personal, by publication, by statute fixing the time and place of hearing, 1 or by delivery to a statutorily designated agent. 2 As regards land, where the State . . . [desires] to sell land for taxes upon proceedings to enforce a lien for the payment thereof, it may proceed directly against the land within the jurisdiction of the court, and a notice which permits all interested, who are ‘so minded,’ to ascertain that it is to be subjected to sale to answer for taxes, and to appear and be heard, whether to be found within the jurisdiction or not, is due process of law within the Fourteenth Amendment. . . . In fact, compliance with statutory notice requirements combined with actual notice to owners of land can be sufficient in an in rem case, even if there are technical defects in such notice. 3

Whether statutorily required notice is sufficient may vary with the circumstances. Thus, where a taxpayer was not legally competent, no guardian had been appointed and town officials were aware of these facts, notice of a foreclosure was defective, even though the tax delinquency was mailed to her, published in local papers, and posted in the town post office. 4 On the other hand, due process was not denied to appellants who were unable to avert foreclosure on certain trust lands (based on liens for unpaid water charges) because their own bookkeeper failed to inform them of the receipt of mailed notices. 5

Footnotes

  1.  Londoner v. City of Denver, 210 U.S. 373 (1908). See also Kentucky Railroad Tax Cases, 115 U.S. 321, 331 (1885); Winona & St. Peter Land Co. v. Minnesota, 159 U.S. 526, 537 (1895); Merchants Bank v. Pennsylvania, 167 U.S. 461, 466 (1897); Glidden v. Harrington, 189 U.S. 255 (1903).
  2.  A state statute may designate a corporation as the agent of a nonresident stockholder to receive notice and to represent him in proceedings for correcting assessment. Corry v. Baltimore, 196 U.S. 466, 478 (1905).
  3.  Leigh v. Green, 193 U.S. 79, 92-93 (1904). Thus, an assessment for taxes and a notice of sale when such taxes are delinquent will be sustained as long as there is a description of the land and the owner knows that the property so described is his, even if that description is not technically correct. Ontario Land Co. v. Yordy, 212 U.S. 152 (1909). Where tax proceedings are in rem, owners are bound to take notice thereof, and to pay taxes on their property, even if the land is assessed to unknown or other persons. Thus, if an owner stands by and sees his property sold for delinquent taxes, he is not thereby wrongfully deprived of his property. Id. See also Longyear v. Toolan, 209 U.S. 414 (1908).
  4.  Covey v. Town of Somers, 351 U.S. 141 (1956).
  5.  Nelson v. New York City, 352 U.S. 103 (1956). This conclusion was unaffected by the disparity between the value of the land taken and the amount owed the city. Having issued appropriate notices, the city cannot be held responsible for the negligence of the bookkeeper and the managing trustee in overlooking arrearages on tax bills, nor is it obligated to inquire why appellants regularly paid real estate taxes on their property.