The Court of Appeals, reversing the Appellate Division, in a full-fledged opinion by Judge Cannataro, determined the controlling statute, Real Property Tax Law (RPTL) 1125(1)(b), does not preclude plaintiff in a tax foreclosure proceeding from presenting evidence the statutory notice requirements were not complied with. The statute states that notice of the foreclosure “shall be deemed received” if neither the certified letter nor the letter sent by first class mail are returned within 45 days. The taxing authority presented evidence the letters were not returned. Plaintiff presented evidence notice was sent to the wrong address and the certified letter lacked a postmark. The Court of Appeals held plaintiff had raised a question of fact about compliance with the statutory notice requirement, notwithstanding the evidence the letters were not returned:
By its unambiguous terms, RPTL 1125 (1) (b) (i) relates to whether notice will be “deemed received,” not whether the taxing authority has complied with the statutory mailing requirements. Although the taxing authority must ensure that “[a]n affidavit of mailing of such notice [is] executed” … , the statute expressly provides that “[t]he failure of an intended recipient to receive any such notice shall not invalidate any tax or prevent the enforcement of the same as provided by law” … . It is only when both the certified mailing and the first class mailing are returned that the statute requires the taxing authority to take additional action beyond the requirements set forth in RPTL 1125 (1) (b) (i) … .
That is not the end of the analysis, however, in cases where the interested party argues, as plaintiff does here, that the taxing authority failed to comply with the mailing requirements set forth in RPTL 1125 (1) (b) (i). … RPTL 1125 (1) (b) (i) contains no “presumption of service” … . Nor does section 1125 (1) (b) (i) bar an interested party from submitting evidence that would call the taxing authority’s compliance with its requirements into issue or limit the proof an interested party may use to raise an issue of fact with respect to that compliance only to evidence that both the certified and first class mailings were returned. Courts “may not create a limitation that the legislature did not enact” … . James B. Nutter & Co. v County of Saratoga, 2023 NY Slip Op 01469, CtApp 3-21-23
Practice Point: In a tax foreclosure proceeding, proof that the letters notifying the property owner of the foreclosure were not returned to the taxing authority (RPTL 1125(1)(b)) does not preclude the owner from raising a question of fact with evidence notice was not received (here evidence the certified letter did not have a postmark and a letter was sent to the wrong address).