Alabama Supreme Court Overrules Application for Rehearing on Decision Voiding Numerous Tax Sales

Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP

The Alabama Supreme Court issued a Certificate of Judgment on Friday overruling Equivest Financial, LLC’s application for rehearing regarding the Court's June 26, 2020 decision that held that a 2013 Bessemer tax sale occurring inside the courthouse — and not on the front steps of the courthouse as required by Ala. Code § 40-10-15 — was void. 

Following Equivest’s application for rehearing, multiple entities – including the National Tax Lien Association, Inc., Association of Alabama Tax Sale Administrators, Birmingham and Gadsden Land Bank Authorities, and the Association of County Commissions of Alabama – submitted amici (“Friend of the Court”) briefs in support of Equivest’s application for rehearing. The amici briefs that were submitted pointed out the various practical implications that could result from the Court’s decision. (1)

The most obvious practical implication that could result from this decision is the voiding of an untold number of tax sales all over the state of Alabama.

To that end, it is pertinent that tax sale purchasers in Alabama examine their portfolios to determine which properties still need quiet title and ejectment actions initiated. Complaints initiating a civil action for quiet title and ejectment will now differ as certain information will need to be included in order to appropriately protect the tax sale purchaser in the event the delinquent taxpayer attempts to invalidate the tax sale based upon this recent decision. Tax sale purchasers will also need to confirm tax sales are being conducted on the actual “front steps” of the courthouse. In light of this decision, even tax sales being conducted online as a result of the novel Coronavirus could be voided.

Nelson Mullins, who submitted an amicus brief on behalf of the National Tax Lien Association, has been continuing to monitor this case and the issues it potentially creates. 

(1) The same Justices that dissented to the original Opinion, also dissented to the Court’s decision to overrule the Application for Rehearing. Under Alabama appellate procedure, there is a question about whether the opinion is binding precedent on the lower courts in Alabama. Regardless of whether the opinion is legally binding, it is likely that trial court judges across the state will adhere to the Supreme Court’s reasoning in invalidating numerous other tax sales.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP

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