Polonsky v. Town of BedfordAnnotate this Case
Defendant Town of Bedford appealed a superior court order: (1) ruling that the statutory scheme governing a municipality’s obligations to compensate a former owner of property that the municipality acquired by the execution of a tax deed violated Part I, Article 12 of the New Hampshire Constitution; and (2) awarding plaintiff Richard Polonsky equitable relief. In 2008, plaintiff inherited property in Bedford. Plaintiff failed to pay his real estate taxes in 2008, 2009, and 2010. Consequently, tax liens were imposed on the property for each of those years. When plaintiff failed to redeem the property by paying the amount of the liens plus interest, the town tax collector issued a tax deed conveying the property to the Town on May 31, 2011. The Town did not take any action regarding the property until 2013, when it contacted plaintiff by telephone to advise him of the amount of back taxes, interest, costs, and penalties required to repurchase the property, and of the Town’s intention to sell the property by auction if he chose not to repurchase it. Plaintiff offered to pay back taxes but requested that the Town waive the additional charges, citing ongoing medical problems that began in 2009. The Town Council voted to reject plaintiff’s offer and began the sale process. Six months later, the Town formally noticed plaintiff of its intent to sell the property. Although plaintiff did not respond to the notice, the Town did not sell the property. In April 2015, plaintiff received another notice of the Town’s intent to sell the property, informing him of his right to repurchase. Plaintiff again offered to pay the amount of back taxes and interest, but requested that the Town waive the penalties. The Town rejected the offer. Through counsel, plaintiff twice requested for reconsideration. Then plaintiff filed suit, alleging, in part, that the Town’s intent to keep excess proceeds from an eventual sale of the property violated his “right to the equity in the subject property” under the state constitution. The New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the trial court, finding that RSA 80:89, VII extinguished a municipality’s duty to provide excess proceeds for the taking of his or her property by tax deed after three years from the date of the recording of the deed, without requiring that the municipality execute that duty; the statute’s three-year limitation upon the municipality’s duty to pay excess proceeds violated Part I, Article 12 of the New Hampshire Constitution. Because the Town acquired plaintiff’s property without providing compensation, the trial court did not err in awarding equitable relief to plaintiff.