Tax Sale


Stiff v. Equivest Financial, LLC, [Ms. 1181051, June 26, 2020] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2020). In a plurality decision, the Court (Mitchell, J.; Parker, C.J., and Bolin and Stewart, JJ., concur; Sellers, J., concurs in the result; Shaw, Wise, Bryan, and Mendheim, JJ., dissent) reverses the Jefferson Circuit Court’s judgment refusing to set aside a tax sale of Stiff’s property that was sold at a tax sale that took place inside the Bessemer courthouse instead of “in front of the door of the courthouse” as required by § 40-10-15, Ala. Code 1975. “When an appeal focuses on the application of the law to undisputed facts, we apply a de novo standard of review.” Ms. *4, citing Carter v. City of Haleyville, 669 So. 2d 812, 815 (Ala. 1995).

The opinion concludes that the irregularity in the sale renders it void:

The tax-sale statutes include detailed instructions on the manner in which a tax sale must be held: “Such sales [of land for taxes] shall be made in front of the door of the courthouse of the county at public outcry, to the highest bidder for cash, between the hours of 10:00 A.M. and 4:00 P.M., and shall continue from day to day until all the real estate embraced in the decree has been sold.” § 40-10-15. Jefferson County ignored one of those requirements – the location of the tax sale – with no apparent excuse. Despite that, Equivest argues “that the holding of the tax sale indoors rather than outdoors [in front of] the courthouse substantially complies with the requirements of Section 40-10-15.” Equivest’s brief at 15. This is essentially an argument that the statute’s sale-location requirement is a minor technicality that is not essential to the objectives of the tax-sale statutes. We disagree – the sale-location requirement plays an important role, and a county may not disregard it for convenience.


Justice Bryan’s dissent (joined by Justices Shaw, Wise, and Mendheim) would have affirmed the circuit court’s judgment as “substantially compliant with the statutory requirements….” Ms. *19.

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