Failed Notifications Lead To Court-Ordered Voiding Of Delaware County Tax Sale

Return to Sender – No Such Number – Unable to Forward

Our real estate litigation team successfully set aside and had declared void an Upset Tax Sale in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, in the matter B & B Enterprise Group LLC v. Delaware County Tax Claim Bureau, et al. (PDF), Del. Co. CCP, No. CV-2022-007985 (Dozer, J.) (May 16, 2024).  Delaware County conducted a tax sale of an art gallery undergoing active renovations in downtown Chester, Pennsylvania, located on the Avenue of the States.

Case Overview

The Delaware County Tax Claim Bureau consistently mailed all tax lien and tax sale notices to an incorrect address located on Edgemont Avenue, Chester.  The Bureau did so despite each notice being returned to it and labeled “Return to Sender” or “No Such Number. Unable to Forward.”  The Court cited to the United States Supreme Court, Jones v. Flowers, 547 U.S. 220 (2006), concluding that, here, as in Jones v. Flowers, the Bureau would be required to take further reasonable steps to contact the owner when it has good reason to suspect that the owner did not receive notice.

The Bureau misaddressed the statutorily required notices despite that the taxing authority, here, the City of Chester, issued the underlying tax bills with the proper address at the Avenue of the States.  Likewise, the Sheriff’s posting of the subject property and the publication of the tax sale all listed an address of Edgemont Avenue and not the correct address of Avenue of the States.  The Tax Claim Bureau provided defective notice under each of the three forms of service required by the Real Estate Tax Sale Law, 72 P.S. § 5860.602.

The Court Findings

The Court completely rejected the Tax Claim Bureau’s contention that it complied with its statutory duty to engage in reasonable, additional efforts to locate the property owner after the return of the U.S. Mail.  See 72 P.S. § 5860.607a, relating to additional notification efforts.

The Bureau never reviewed the various records held by the County, including a prior deed containing the proper address, or the County’s own Mapping Department which would demonstrate the subject property being located on Avenue of the States and not Edgemont Avenue.  The Court noted that the Bureau never performed a corporate search for the owner. Instead, the Bureau ran a “people search” which would not identify business entities.

Finally, the Court accepted at face value the Sheriff’s posting affidavit that posting occurred at “a structure located at 602 Edgemont Avenue” not the Avenue of the States address associated with the property sold at the tax sale.  Citing to Hollinger v. Hollinger, 206 A.2d 1 (Pa. 1965), the Court considered the Sheriff’s return of service “full and complete on its face, [and] conclusive and immune from attach by extrinsic evidence.”

The Ruling

The Court held that the tax sale be set aside and void, and restored ownership of the property to the taxpayer.

Should you have a question about tax sales, been affected by improper notice of a tax sale, or lost your property as the result of a tax sale, feel free to contact Eric B. Smith, Esquire at 215-540-2653 or  You may also view our prior article Strict Compliance Required: Notice Requirements Before the Tax Sale of Your Home for a more expansive discussion of Pennsylvania’s Tax Sale Law.

About The Author(s):


Eric B. Smith

Mr. Smith, a partner of Timoney Knox, LLP, serves as Chair of the Firm’s Litigation Group and has been consistently recognized by Super Lawyers and Best Attorneys since 2005.  In 2017 Mr. Smith served as the President of the Montgomery Bar Association.  His commercial and real estate litigation practice spans across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

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Timoney Knox's Real Estate Litigation Group

Timoney Knox has real estate attorneys experienced in buying and selling property; in mortgaging and borrowing against real estate; in interpreting and applying the wide variety of local land use and zoning laws; and in representing the needs and concerns of individuals as well as homeowners’ associations, condominiums, and planned communities.

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