January 7, 2019. 
Taxation, Real estate tax: foreclosure of right of
redemption. Land Court, Vacation of judgment. Due Process of
Law, Notice. Practice, Civil, Vacation of judgment. Notice,
Tax taking. Petition filed in the Land Court Department on
May 9, 2014. A motion for relief from judgment was heard by
E. Fumarola for the defendant.
Connolly, Jr., for the plaintiff.
Present: Hanlon, Lemire, & Wendlandt, JJ.
case requires us to construe G. L. c. 60, §§ 62 and
63, which set forth procedures by which a person may redeem
property that has been taken for nonpayment of taxes and
extinguish a tax taking of the property. More specifically,
we are called on to determine whether one of these procedures
__ namely, recording an instrument of redemption __ is
available after the assignee of the tax taking on
the property has filed a petition to foreclose the right of
redemption in the Land Court. Because the commencement of the
foreclosure action vests exclusive jurisdiction in the Land
Court with regard to the right of redemption, we hold that
once a foreclosure action is commenced in the Land Court, a
property may not be redeemed by paying the outstanding tax
liability directly to the municipality in which the property
is located; instead, a party seeking to redeem must follow
the procedure specified by the Land Court.
2005, the defendant, Wanda Lopez, granted Wells Fargo
Financial Massachusetts, Inc. (Wells Fargo), a mortgage on
her property (property) in the city of Lawrence (city). Lopez
failed to pay real estate taxes for fiscal years 2008 and
2009 to the city. In 2009, the city assigned the municipal
tax receivables on Lopez's property to Plymouth Park Tax
Services LLC (Plymouth Park) as part of a bulk sale pursuant
to G. L. c. 60, § 2C. The assignment was duly recorded. In
2010, because the taxes remained unpaid, Plymouth Park
effected a tax taking of the property and recorded an
instrument of taking on Lopez's property. In 2014, Plymouth
Park assigned the instrument of taking to the plaintiff,
Ithaca Finance, LLC (Ithaca), and (like the assignment from
the city to Plymouth Park) this assignment was duly recorded.
2014, Ithaca filed the present action in Land Court to
foreclose the right of redemption on the property. Lopez and
Wells Fargo were served with notice of the pending action.
The notice informed them that the action was to foreclose all
rights of redemption and that failure to appear by no later
than March 7, 2016, would result in a default, "forever
barr[ing Lopez and Wells Fargo] from contesting said
complaint or any judgment entered thereon."
Lopez nor Wells Fargo entered an appearance. Instead, in
February 2016, Wells Fargo contacted Plymouth Park, which
referred Wells Fargo to its lien servicer, Propel Financial
Services LLC (Propel). Propel, in turn, informed Wells Fargo
that the instrument of taking had been redeemed. The record
does not reflect the basis for Propel's statement, and
Wells Fargo does not suggest that it made any payment to
satisfy the taxes owed. Nonetheless, Wells Fargo received a
certificate of redemption in March 2016, which it recorded in May
2016 while the Land Court action was pending. There is no
indication in the record that either Lopez or Wells Fargo
informed Ithaca or the Land Court judge of this recording.
having received no response from any interested person,
Ithaca moved for a general default. The motion was allowed,
and final judgment entered in June 2016. Over one year later,
Wells Fargo filed a motion to vacate the judgment. The judge
denied the motion, and this appeal followed.