Character of title acquired.


Judgment for taxes.


Forfeiture to state.


Remedial legislation.

Sec. 557. Character of title acquired

The payment of taxes on land is in this country usually enforced by a summary sale of the land, conducted by the tax col lector or some other ministerial officer.

The power to sell lands for nonpayment of taxes is a purely statutory power, and it has always been held that the statutory requirements as to the mode of making sale must be strictly complied with, and that, moreover, since the power to sell exists only in case there are valid taxes, which are unpaid, no title will pass unless the tax was levied and assessed in accordance with law. Tax sales have accordingly been held to be invalid in particular cases for want of a valid assessment or valuation of the property, duly verified by the proper officers, and approved by the legal reviewing authority or "board of equalization," defects in the levy of the tax, defects in the warrant issued to the collector for the collection of the tax, failure to return the list of deliquent taxes, noncompliance with the various requirements as to the mode of advertising the sale, failure to comply with the statute, and also with the advertisement, as to the conduct of the sale, failure to sell all the land, though a part brings enough to pay the taxes.

Furthermore, the statutory requirements as to the return of the sale by the officer must be complied with, and he must make a conveyance to the purchaser in strict conformity to the statute. The sale is also invalid if the tax was unconstitutional, or nut properly levied by the legislature or the municipal authorities or if the land was exempt, or the taxes had been paid. before the sale. In view of these many possible defects in the proceedings, as well as others which might be mentioned, it is not strange that titles based on tax sales are usually regarded as of most questionable soundness, and, though this condition of things has sen to some extent removed by legislation of a character hereafter referred to, the possibilities of failure of title through defects in the proceedings are still such that land, when sold for taxes, rarely, if ever, brings its actual value, and its purchase is ordinarily tor purposes of speculation, rather than for actual occupation..1 By the statutes of many states, the sale is of an estate in fee simple in the land, free from any incumbrances, and without reference to the estate or interest belonging to the particular person against whom tl tax was assessed, that is, the proceeding for sale is in effect against the land, and not against any particular owner thereof; and if one interested in the land, though not bound to pay the taxes as against the person in possession, desire to protect his interest, he must pay the taxes, or redeem from the tax sale. So, a remainderman or lienor may, by the failure of the owner in possession to pay the taxes, be divested of all interest in the land. In some states, however, or under particular acts, the taxes are not enforceable against the entire interest in the land, but against the interest only of the person against whom the taxes are assessed, in which case the interests of other owners or of lienors are not divested by the sale.

1. An admirable sketch of the uncertainties involved in a tax title is contained in 2 Dembitz, Land Titles, p., 1323 et seq. The standard works upon the very extensive subject of tux sales are those by Henry C. Black.

Esq. and by Robert S. Blackwell, the fifth edition of which is well edited by Frank Parsons, Esq.

2 R. P. - 61

The statute usually, if not always, names a certain period, varying from six months to three years, within which the owner of the land may redeem from the sale by the payment to the purchaser of the purchase money, interest, and costs, in addition to which he is ordinarily required to pay a penalty, calculated in interest at a high rate.

The purchaser has, until the execution of a conveyance or "deed" by the officer making the sale, neither a legal nor equitable title to the land, but rather a lien thereon for the amount of the purchase money, interest, costs, and penalty. He is usually entitled to the deed upon the expiration of the time for redemption, and not before, and the statutes frequently impose certain formalities as conditions precedent to his obtaining the deed. The requirements of the statute as to tie-form of the deed, which are frequently most detailed, and precise in character, and often include full recitals of the antecedent proceedings, must be strictly followed, and the deed must be executed in strict compliance with the statute in order to vest the title in the purchaser.