Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

In re Application of County Collector

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

January 6, 2017

In re APPLICATION OF THE COUNTY COLLECTOR, for the Sale of Delinquent Real Estate Taxes
v.
The Rock Island County Collector, Respondent-Appellee. Steve Sodeman, Petitioner-Appellant,

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 14th Judicial Circuit, Rock Island County, Illinois. Circuit No. 14-TX-68 Honorable Clarence M. Darrow Judge, Presiding

          JUSTICE O'BRIEN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices McDade and Wright concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          O'BRIEN, JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 Petitioner Steve Sodeman bought a property owned by Mary Gatewood at a tax sale and filed for a tax deed. The trial court denied his petition because Sodeman failed to serve the property owner and taxpayer. He subsequently sought a sale in error, which the trial court also denied, finding that Sodeman did not make a bona fide attempt to comply with the statutory notice requirements. We affirm.

         ¶ 2 FACTS

         ¶ 3 Petitioner Steve Sodeman paid the taxes and received a tax sale certificate of purchase for real estate located at 525 9th Street in Rock Island at the annual tax sale in Rock Island County in December 2011. The owner and taxpayer of the property was Mary Gatewood. Sodeman thereafter bought the taxes due on the property in 2012 and 2013. In July 2014, Sodeman obtained a title search, visited the property, and determined the identity of the property's occupants.

         ¶ 4 On August 4, 2014, Sodeman filed a petition for tax deed and take notices for the interested parties, including Gatewood. Sodeman delivered the take notices to the sheriff's department and the circuit clerk for the appropriate service and he published notice. On August 18, the take notice was filed with a certified mail receipt from the clerk's office indicating the notice for Gatewood was delivered to Marissa Martin at the subject address. The sheriff's department's certified mail receipt also indicated Martin accepted notice at the subject address. The return sheet from the sheriff's department stated that the notice was not personally served and the "subject [was] unknown." An affidavit in support of the petition was signed by Sodeman and provided that Sodeman searched various county records and published notice and that Gatewood was served by the sheriff or by mail at the subject address.

         ¶ 5 At hearings in February and March 2015, service of interested parties, including Gatewood, was discussed. Sodeman acknowledged Gatewood as the property's owner and taxpayer and admitted she no longer lived at the subject address. Sodeman stated that his affidavit provided that Gatewood was served via abode service. The trial court determined that there was no return of service indicating abode service. The trial court noted that Sodeman did not present any documentation regarding service or lack of service, either personal, substitute or abode, and or any evidence Gatewood could not be found, such as the sheriff's department diligent search form.

         ¶ 6 In April 2015, another hearing took place. Sodeman presented the testimony of Joel Keim, an employee of the Rock Island County Sheriff's Department. He served notice on the occupants of the property. Gatewood was not there and the occupants did not know her whereabouts. Keim did not attempt any other means to serve Gatewood and did not engage in any further inquiry to discover her whereabouts, such as inquiring at the post office or through a skip trace.

         ¶ 7 Sodeman testified that he used information from the county treasurer's and assessor's offices and an internet search to locate Gatewood, which all showed her address as the subject property. The internet search revealed her phone number was connected to the address at issue. He did not call the phone number he found. He did not check the post office or ask relatives or the property's occupants where Gatewood could be found. He did not check the county clerk's office or the files in either of the foreclosure cases pending against Gatewood in Rock Island County. The limited title search he did in July 2014 did not reveal the foreclosures. The trial court observed that the clerk's docket revealed foreclosures against Gatewood in 2012 and one pending in 2014 and that those files showed a different address for Gatewood. The court denied Sodeman's petition for tax deed, finding Sodeman failed to make a diligent inquiry and effort to locate Gatewood.

         ¶ 8 Sodeman filed a petition for sale in error in August 2015. The County objected and a hearing took place to determine whether Sodeman made a bona fide attempt to comply with the statutory notice requirements. Sodeman testified he did not know the address he obtained for Gatewood from the treasurer's and assessor's offices was incorrect. He did not check the county court files. The sheriff's department filed a return notice but did not send a return of service to him. The sheriff's department did not notify him that it served Gatewood or that it was unable to serve her. He also stated that the postcard notice of the tax sale he mailed to Gatewood was not returned so he concluded it had been delivered to her. Sodeman located Gatewood's name on the Judici website but he did not know how the website worked and did not obtain any information from it. Sodeman was familiar with the homestead and senior property tax exemptions available to Illinois residents and acknowledged that the treasurer's document from which he obtained Gatewood's address indicated the subject property did not have homestead exemption. He stated that some people do not know to apply for the exemptions.

         ¶ 9 The trial court found that Sodeman's efforts to serve Gatewood per the statutory requirements were "cursory" and not diligent and denied Sodeman's petition for sale in error. He filed a motion to reconsider, which the trial court denied after a hearing. Sodeman appealed.

         ¶ 10 ANALYSIS

         ¶ 11 The issue on appeal is whether the trial court erred when it denied Sodeman's petition for a tax sale. Sodeman argues that the trial court's finding that he failed to make a bona fide attempt to comply with the statutory requirements to serve Gatewood was in error. He maintains that, except for lack of notice to Gatewood, he strictly complied with the ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.