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Very Easy To Lose

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An innocent looking little decisión in the Michigan Supreme court, recently made, will have a wide and far reaching effect. When it is published in the Michigan Reports the opinión, which was written by Judge Grant, will not occupy a page, yet it is like "the business end of a wasp," it's small but it stings. It makes tax title deeds obtained under the present law as good as warranty deeds. It opens the door to defrauding heirs out of their inheritance, mortgagors out of the money they loaned and careless taxpayers out of the property they have accurnulated. Under the provisions of the tax law of 1891, if the taxes on real estáte are returned as unpaid, the land, on which the unpaid tax is levied, is sold for taxes in a little over a year from the time of the return. Previous to the sale, the county treasurer petitiöns the circuit court in chancery, setting forth the lands on which taxes are unpaid, for a decree in favor of the county and praying for a sale to enforce the lien. The clerk of the court issues a subpcena to the delinquent taxpayers, who are residents of the state. If the taxpayer does not appear, the petition is taken as confessed. It is provided that the petition to sell the lands shall be published in some newspaper, and that this publication shall be taken as equivalent to personal service on all persons not personally served. The county treasurer, after the decree is granted, sells the land for tax..s. If no bids are made the land is bid off for the state. One year is given for the redemption of the iand sold with interest at one per cent. per month. If not re deemed within the year, the treasurer issues to the purchaser of the tax title a deed to the land. Such is a brief synopsis of the lengthy provisions of the law. The supreme court decisión referred to is the case of Cole vs. Shelp, decided December 4, 1893. The plaintiff bought the land in question from a man who had failed to pay his taxes. He had had no personal notice of the petition in the circuit court, not having been personally served with the subpoena, but was brought in by publication of the notice in a newspaper, which he did not see. The land was sold for taxes, the deed was given and the holder of the tax title deed brought suit to eject the owner of the property and obtained possession of it for himself. Judge Newton, who tried the case in the circuit court, permitted Shelp to show that the tax was illegally assessed and decided that the tax title deed was not good. The supreme court, however, reversed Judge Newton's decisión, on the ground that he should not have permitted evidence that the tax was illegal, holding that "that matter had been taken as confessed when Shelp had not appeared to contest the case of which he had no personal notice. Judge Grant, in his opinión, says: "The statute makes the publication equivalent to personal service. It is his duty, therefore, to watch the proceedings provided for by the statute for the foreclosure of the lien and interpose any objections he may have to the validity of the tax. The purpose of the statute is to give every person his day in court in an equitable proceeding. He has no right to assume that he will be served with process especially if he is a non-resident. The decree in the chancery proceed ings was therefore conclusive upon the plaintiff and it was error to per ruit him to question the validity o: the tax." Not only was poor Shelp ejected from his land but he was sadrlled with the costs in both the circuit and supreme court, and the tax title shark became the owner o the land. Such is theluvof this state as declared b th highest court of the state. Land may be sold for taxe illegally assessed if the owner of the land does not appear to contest the decree of sale at a time of which he may have no personal notice. Afte a year has passed a deed will be given which cuts off all leins upon To show how this decisión may work an injustice, an actual case is here cited. Frank Foegen, a minor, who was bereft of his parents at the age of eleven years, is the owner of a block on Clay avenue, Muskegon, which is valued by the assessor at Si 3,000. His. guardián neglected o look after the taxes and Charles Hesse, of Lansing, got a tax title deed of the property for less than $200. Foegen is left penniless, while Hesse gets #13,000 worth of jroperty for $200. If this law coninueschildren left orphans will hare o be posted on the tax laws. An $8,000 piece of property i ..ansing has been lost on a tax title deed. One man in Detroit has obtained ax title deeds under the law of 1889, which is like that pf 1891, oa jroperty worth over $ 1,000, 000 at an expenditure of less than $2,500. This man, whose name is Johnson, does nothing but buy tax titles, and ie admits that under the oíd law he got back his money four-fold. What was the need of making the aw so much more stringent ? A syndicate of eastern capitalists íave already organized with L200,000 capital to buy tax titles in this tate and have theiragents out gathering in the titles of those who would not be hard hearted enough o enforce them in the strict mannerallowed. Ofcourse this eastern yndicate will have no compunctions of conscience. Co-operations have no souls. Have state Iegislatures nd supreme courts ? f Unless the supreme court, on acount of the manifest in justice worked, and in compliance with an outraged public sentiment, reverses ts decisión there are many ways in which injustice can be worked. For nstance a man in Monroe county may leave a this city $5,000 on a $to,ooo propertv, taking a mortgage under which the Ann Ar)or man agrees to pay the taxes. he Ann Árbor man may go to a riend and get hirn to bid in a tax itle to the property. The Monroe man is not notified when the land will be sold, but after a year the tax itle deed is recorded and the mortgage is no longer a lien on the property. The interest on the mortgage may have been promptly paid and he Monroe man have no reason tO uspect a tax title. And yet his $5,000 is gone. Heirs may not discover that thejr re entitled to certain lands left hem until tax title deeds have shut hem out. Owners of land, who trust agents o pay their taxes, may lose their )roperty through negligence of the agent. Owners of several pieces of land n the city often pay the taxes on vhat they suppose is all their land, when some description may be assessed in another place in the rolls and thus remain unpaid. They may 3e absent when asubpoena is sought to be served on them, and even if they see the newspaper, may not recognize the description. Enough has been said to show the supreme importance of seeing that your taxes are paid. Those who neglect to pay their taxes last year, or the year before, should redeera their lands now before it is too late. If a taxpayer thinks he is illegallr assessed he should pay his taxes under written protest and seek to recover the amount afterwards. Mortgagors of property, to protect their Hens should see that all taxes on the property is paid. In fact the utmost care must be taken to avoid the extreme penalties of the law.


Ann Arbor Argus
Old News