In this case, the Commonwealth Court was asked to weigh in on the procedures a trial court must follow before it can order the sale of a property for unpaid taxes. Specifically, the court found that trial courts must make an independent inquiry into the facts asserted in the municipality’s petition for sale, and cite in its opinion the record evidence it relied upon in concluding that the petition’s factual averments were true.
A Property owned by F.A. Realty was foreclosed upon by the City of Philadelphia for unpaid taxes. The City filed a petition with the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County to sell the Property and later docketed affidavits of service. F.A. filed a petition to strike asserting that the City had not properly served the petition on them. The trial court denied the motion to strike and F.A. appealed.
On appeal to the Commonwealth Court F.A. argued that the trial court’s determination that it had been properly served was not supported by substantial evidence, and was not in accordance with the requirements of the Municipal Claims and Tax Liens Act. Specifically, F.A. argued that the trial court must make an independent inquiry regarding the City’s strict compliance with the service requirements in the Act and it failed to do so. The Commonwealth Court agreed. It found that the trial court had not verified the facts alleged in the City’s petition. It noted that the trial court’s opinion did not discuss what record evidence, if any, it relied on to conclude that the Petition’s factual averments were true. Therefore the Commonwealth Court vacated the trial court’s order and remanded for further proceedings.