A mortgagee could not redeem unoccupied vacated property after the sheriff’s deed was acknowledged in a tax sale, the Commonwealth Court ruled in Brentwood Borough School District v. HSBC Bank USA, N.A., __ A.3d __ (No. 2346 CD 2013, filed March 24, 2015). The subject property in this case was sold to a third-party purchaser in a tax sale for delinquent real estate and school taxes. Because the gas service had been shut off, the former owner was no longer residing in the home before the tax sale, although many of her belongings remained there. HSBC Bank, as mortgagee, filed a redemption petition under Section 32(a) of the Municipal Claims and Tax Liens Act, 53 P.S. §7293(a). The trial court denied the petition, holding that it was untimely and that HSBC had no right to redeem after the sheriff’s acknowledgment of the deed because the property was vacant at the time of the sale.
On appeal, Judge McGinley, writing for the unanimous panel, first noted that the trial court had incorrectly applied a 90-day deadline for HSBC’s redemption petition; Section 32(a) imposes a nine-month deadline, which HSBC met. The Court agreed with the trial court that HSBC’s petition failed under Section 32(c) of the Act, which states that “