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In re Application of County Treasurer

December 30, 1998

IN RE APPLICATION OF THE COUNTY TREASURER AND EX OFFICIO COUNTY COLLECTOR OF MCHENRY COUNTY, FOR JUDGMENT AND ORDER OF SALE AGAINST REAL ESTATE RETURNED DELINQUENT FOR NONPAYMENT OF GENERAL TAXES AND SPECIAL ASSESSMENTS FOR THE YEAR 1993 AND PRIOR YEARS (CHOICE PROPERTIES, INC., PETITIONER-APPELLANT, V. INTER-COUNTY NATIONAL TITLE INSURANCE COMPANY, RESPONDENT-APPELLEE).


Appeal from the Circuit Court of McHenry County. No. 94--TX--030004 Honorable Haskell M. Pitluck, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Thomas

IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS

Petitioner, Choice Properties, Inc., purchased property at a tax sale, received a certificate of purchase, and petitioned for a tax deed. Later, respondent, Intercounty National Title Insurance Company, paid the delinquent taxes. Relying on In re Application for Judgment & Sale by the County Treasurer & ex officio County Collector of St. Claire County, 276 Ill. App. 3d 1084 (5th Dist. 1995) (Galmon), the circuit court awarded petitioner a tax deed, ruling that respondent's failure to file a written protest negated its attempted redemption. On respondent's motion to reconsider, the court reversed itself and held that, under our intervening decision in In re Application of the County Treasurer & ex officio County Collector, 292 Ill. App. 3d 310 (2d Dist. 1997)(Bluegreen), respondent did not need to file a written protest because it sought to redeem without challenging the petition for a tax deed.

Petitioner appeals, arguing that respondent's purported redemption was ineffective because (1) respondent was not an owner or other person interested in the property, as required by section 21--345 of the Property Tax Code (Code) (35 ILCS 200/21--345 (West 1996)); and (2) even if respondent could redeem, it had to file a written protest to do so. We hold that respondent could redeem on behalf of the present owners without filing a protest. Therefore, petitioner was not entitled to a tax deed and the trial court's judgment must be affirmed.

Most of the facts are undisputed. Respondent insures the title of the present owners, who bought the property (several distinctly identified parcels) some time after the prior owner failed to pay the 1993 taxes. Respondent conceded that, in insuring the present owners' title, it simply overlooked the existing tax delinquency. In November 1994, at a court-ordered sale, petitioner bought the property. In February 1997, petitioner filed its petition for a tax deed. Respondent timely tendered redemption monies, but petitioner refused the payment.

In the circuit court, petitioner argued first that respondent could not redeem because section 21--345 limits redemptions to owners or other parties interested in the property and respondent belonged to neither group. Petitioner asserted second that, under Galmon, respondent forwent any redemption right it had by failing to file a written protest as required by section 21--380 of the Code (35 ILCS 200/21--380 (West 1996)).

The circuit court initially held for petitioner, relying on Galmon. Respondent moved to reconsider. The parties disagreed both over whether respondent needed to file a written protest and over whether respondent was eligible to redeem the property. Petitioner asserted that respondent's role in protecting the present owners' title to the property did not make respondent "interested" in the property as section 21--345 required. Respondent replied that its contracts for title insurance obligated it to redeem the property by paying any delinquent taxes on behalf of the present owners.

Not all the details of respondent's redemption attempt are clear from the record. Petitioner claimed that respondent admitted to having attempted to redeem in its own name rather than the names of the owners. However, respondent's motion to reconsider asserted that "the redemption monies submitted *** were made [sic] specifically in the name [sic] of the owners." At the hearing on the motion to reconsider, respondent's counsel stated that respondent had tendered the redemption money "on behalf of" the present owners.

The trial court reversed its earlier ruling. Relying in part on Bluegreen, which we decided after the original ruling on the petition for a tax deed, the court held that respondent was eligible to redeem on the owners' behalf without filing a written protest. Petitioner timely appealed.

Petitioner reiterates its arguments before the trial court that (1) respondent was not eligible to redeem because it lacked the interest required by section 21--345; and (2) respondent's attempted redemption was defective because respondent did not redeem under protest in accordance with section 21--380.

We may summarily dispose of petitioner's second contention, as our recent decision in Bluegreen controls the issue. We adhere to our holding that, even after a petition for a tax deed has been filed, a party may redeem without protest and without challenging the petition, and thus without following section 21--380's protest procedures. See Bluegreen, 292 Ill. App. 3d at 315. The trial court correctly decided that, if respondent could redeem at all, it could do so without filing a written protest.

Petitioner's other claim of error--that respondent was not eligible to redeem at all--requires more Discussion. We have found no case law addressing specifically whether a title insurer for a property owner may redeem by paying the delinquent property taxes. This issue is governed by section 21--345, which, as pertinent here, states:

"Property sold under this Code may be redeemed only by those persons having a right of redemption as defined in this Section and only in accordance with this Code."

"A right to redeem property from any sale under this Code shall exist in any owner or person interested in the property *** whether or not the interest in that property sold is recorded or filed. Any redemption shall be presumed to have been made by or on behalf of the owners and persons interested in the property and shall inure to the benefit of the persons having the legal or equitable title to the property redeemed, subject to the right of the person making the redemption to be reimbursed by the persons benefited." 35 ILCS 200/21--345 (West 1996). According to petitioner, respondent is not an owner or "person interested in the property," having only a contractual connection to ...


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