Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County Honorable James F. Henry, judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Gallagher
In the case before us, we must determine what constitutes strict compliance with the statutory notice requirements in connection with a tax sale. According to the Property Tax Code, such strict compliance is a condition precedent to the issuance of a tax deed. 35 ILCS 200/22-40 (West 1994); In re Application of the County Collector of Cook County for Order of Judgement and Sale of Lands Upon Which General Taxes for Five or More Years are Delinquent Pursuant to Section 235A of the Revenue Act of 1939, as Amended, 173 Ill. App. 3d 814, 818, 527 N.E.2d 1038, 1041 (1988)(hereinafter Petition of B& W Investments). In essence, then, this court must divine how the legislature would answer the question, "How strict is strict?"
On March 24, 1993, petitioner, Midwest Real Estate Investment Company (Midwest), purchased at a tax sale property belonging to respondent, Timothy Lee Anderson (Anderson). The property, located at 936 North Lawndale in Chicago, sold for $468.50, where $214.52 represented the amount of unpaid tax while the remainder satisfied interest and certain statutory fees. On April 26, 1993, the county treasurer and county clerk issued a certificate of purchase to Midwest. This certificate of purchase listed its designation as "Certificate Number 91-0025017."
On May 5, 1995, Midwest filed its petition for tax deed with the clerk of the circuit court, attaching a copy of the certificate of purchase for the subject property. Midwest sent notice to Anderson through the various methods required by statute (35 ILCS 200/22-15 et seq. (West 1994)) advising him that the redemption period on the property would expire on October 2, 1995.
Anderson failed to redeem the property, and on November 27, 1995, unbeknownst to Anderson, the trial court entered an order directing issuance of a tax deed to Midwest. Three days later, Anderson moved for leave to appear in the tax deed proceedings and for leave to defend. After several other motions and hearings, the trial court directed Anderson to file an amended motion to vacate the tax deed order. Respondent Anderson did so on March 6, 1996, arguing that the statutorily required notice forms misstated the certificate number of the purchase certificate; therefore, petitioner Midwest failed to meet the "strict compliance" requirement of section 22-40 of the Property Tax Code. 35 ILCS 200/22-40 (West 1994). This failure, according to Anderson, ultimately nullified the tax deed. On May 22, 1996, the trial court vacated the November 27, 1995, tax deed order, recalled the tax deed issued pursuant to that order and set the case for an evidentiary hearing.
Following a bench trial, the trial court granted the petition for tax deed for the property at issue. The trial court entered judgment for Midwest in an order dated September 11, 1996. That order reinstated the November 27, 1995, tax deed order--over Anderson's objections. Anderson next brought this appeal, again asserting that Midwest was not entitled to the tax deed because it failed to strictly comply with the statutory notice requirements. *fn1 We reverse and hold that, by failing to include the complete certificate number on the notice forms it sent to Anderson, Midwest did not fulfill its duty to strictly comply with the notice requirements of the Property Tax Code.
Section 22-10 of the Property Tax Code requires that parties interested in the premises that are the subject of a tax sale must be given notice both of the sale and of the period in which the property may be redeemed. 35 ILCS 200/22-10 (West 1994); Petition of B& W Investments, 173 Ill. App. 3d at 817-18, 527 N.E.2d at 1041. This provision implements the mandate, contained in the Illinois Constitution, that such interested parties receive "reasonable notice of the sale and the date of expiration of the period of redemption." Ill. Const. 1970, art. IX, §8(e). Because determination of whether the notice supplied by Midwest satisfies section 22-10 is a question of law, we need not defer to the findings of the trial court. In re Application of Cook County Collector for Judgement and Sale Against Lands and Lots Returned Delinquent for Nonpayment of General Taxes for the Year 1975, 100 Ill. App. 3d 178, 179, 426 N.E.2d 947, 949 (1981)(hereinafter Petition of Ohr).
As Anderson correctly points out, section 22-10 specifies the precise form in which this notice shall be given to the parties interested in the premises. That provision states as follows:
"A purchaser or assignee shall not be entitled to a tax deed to the property sold unless, not less than 3 months nor more than 5 months prior to the expiration of the period of redemption, he or she gives notice of the sale and the date of expiration of the period of redemption to the owners, occupants and parties interested in the property as provided below.
The Notice to be given to the parties shall be in at least 10 point type in the following form completely filled in:
TAX DEED NO. .......... FILED ..........
County of ....................................... ...