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  • WisBar News
    February 05, 2013

    County Complied with Notice Requirement for Tax Lien Foreclosure

    Feb. 5, 2013 – A bank’s failure to list its address on mortgage documents filed with the register of deeds means a default foreclosure judgment will stand.

    In Juneau County v. Associated Bank, N.A., 2012AP1304 (Jan. 31, 2013), a state appeals court ruled that Juneau County was not required to “look beyond the record in the office of the register of deeds” to find the bank’s address for notice purposes.

    That is, a three-judge panel ruled that Juneau County complied with Wis. Stat. section 75.521(3), which sets out the notice requirements counties must follow to commence tax lien foreclosure proceedings against property owners and secured creditors.

    Sebastian Madej used Associated Bank to finance the purchase of two parcels of land in Necedah, located in Juneau County. The bank recorded its mortgages with the county register of deeds, but neither mortgage listed an address for the bank.

    In subsequent years, Madej failed to pay property taxes. In 2008, the bank mailed a tax payment to satisfy Madej’s tax debt for 2003 and 2004 to the county treasurer.

    The cover letter accompanying the check listed the bank’s address in Green Bay. In 2009, Madej defaulted on the notes secured by the mortgages.

    The bank filed foreclosure actions, and recorded a lis pendens for each lot. The recorded warnings did not list an address for the bank. However, they listed the case numbers for the foreclosure actions, and the complaints listed the bank’s address.

    In 2010, the bank obtained default judgments of foreclosure on Madej’s property, and sent payments to the county treasurer for some delinquent tax years, but not all. The treasurer sent tax receipts to the bank’s address in Green Bay.

    Before the sheriff’s sale however, the bank settled with Madej and moved to vacate the foreclosure judgments. It also recorded discharges of lis pendens.

    Soon after, the county commenced tax lien foreclosure proceedings against 94 parcels, including the Madej parcels, under section 75.521. The county retained a title insurance company to ascertain the names of owners and secured creditors for notice purposes.

    It listed Associated Bank, a secured creditor, as having an “unknown address” because the bank’s address could not be found in recorded documents with the register of deeds. The county published a notice of affected parcels in the official newspaper.

    Associated Bank did not appear or file an answer to the county’s foreclosure action against the Madej properties, and default judgments of foreclosure were entered.

    The bank moved to vacate the judgments, arguing that the county did not comply with notice requirements of section 75.521(3). But the appeals court panel affirmed the circuit court’s ruling that Juneau County met the notice requirements.

    “[T]he County was not required to expand its search for the Bank’s address beyond what was ascertainable directly from the records relating to the two affected lots located at the office of the register of deeds,” wrote Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg.

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