Tax Sale Purchasers Beware: Demand in Motion Qualifies as Written Demand Under Redemption Statute

On November 6, 2015, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals released its opinion in Wall to Wall Properties, Inc. v. Cadence Bank, N.A. In Wall to Wall, the tax sale purchaser (“Wall”) acquired its interest in the subject property at Madison County's 2012 tax sale. Cadence Bank (“Cadence”), the mortgagee, was subsequently granted a certificate of redemption from the Madison County Probate Court, and Wall thereafter sought a writ of mandamus from the Circuit Court of Madison County directing the Probate Court to vacate the certificate of redemption. 

On December 21, 2012, Cadence filed a motion to dismiss the petition for writ of mandamus, which was served on Wall through the AlaFile system and included the bank’s demand that Wall provide a statement of all insurance premiums and permanent or preservation improvements owed under the redemption statute. Wall took the position that the bank's motion to dismiss failed to satisfy the demand requirement set forth in section 40-10-122(d), and the bank sent a subsequent demand on February 4, 2013 to which Wall responded.

The Court of Civil Appeals held that Cadence's motion to dismiss satisfied the “written demand” requirement of section 40-10-122(d). Because Wall failed to respond to the demand set out in the bank’s motion to dismiss within the ten (10) days contemplated by section 40-10-122(d), the Court of Civil Appeals held that Wall waived any right to reimbursement of insurance premiums or any type of improvements. Tax sale and redemption practitioners should note, as did the Court of Civil Appeals, that section 40-10-122(d) does not specify any particular manner of delivery of written demand for insurance premiums and improvements. Instead, any form of written communication—all written correspondence (whether handwritten or typed), electronic communications such as email, pleadings, motions, and most other types of communications--likely qualify as a “written demand” triggering the tax sale purchaser’s duty to respond and provide the amount claimed. More generally, though, because the right to seek reimbursement of insurance premiums, preservation improvements, and permanent improvements is statutory in nature, the practitioner must take extra care in complying with any deadlines or schedules contemplated by the redemption statute.