JEFFREY T. HARDY and JOHNNA A. HARDY, husband and wife, Plaintiffs-Counterdefendants-Respondents,
RONALD O. PHELPS and DONNA J. PHELPS, husband and wife; RONALD O. PHELPS and DONNA J. PHELPS, TRUSTEES OF THE PHELPS FAMILY TRUST U/D/T/ SEPTEMBER 16, 2004; and DOES I-X as individuals with interest in real property located in Boise County, Idaho, legally described as Lots 26 and 27 of Mores Creek Heights, according to the plat thereof, recorded as Instrument No. 95549, records of Boise County, Idaho, Defendants-Counterclaimants-Appellants. RONALD O. PHELPS and DONNA J. PHELPS, husband and wife; RONALD O. PHELPS and DONNA J. PHELPS, TRUSTEES OF THE PHELPS FAMILY TRUST U/D/T/ SEPTEMBER 16, 2004; and DOES I-X as individuals with interest in real property located in Boise County, Idaho, legally described as Lots 26 and 27 of Mores Creek Heights, according to the plat thereof, recorded as Instrument No. 95549, records of Boise County, Idaho, Cross Claimants-Appellants,
BOISE COUNTY, a political subdivision of the State of Idaho, and JOHN and JOHN DOE I through X, whose true identities are unknown, Cross Defendant-Respondent
from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District of
the State of Idaho, Boise County. Peter Barton, District
order of the district court finding that Boise County's
efforts to notify the Phelpses of the tax deed satisfied the
notice provision of the statute and were sufficient to
satisfy due process requirements is affirmed. Costs on appeal
are awarded to Respondents.
Johnson & Monteleone, L.L.P., Boise, attorney for
Appellants. D. Samuel Johnson argued.
Gledhill, Fuhrman, Gourley, P.A., Boise, attorneys for
Counter-defendants and Respondents Hardy. Chad E. Bernards
Borton-Lakey Law & Policy, Meridian, attorneys for
Cross-defendants and Respondents Boise County. Joseph W.
Nature of the Case
and Johnna Hardy ("the Hardys") purchased two
properties at a tax sale and brought action to quiet title
against the original owners, Ronald and Donna Phelps
("the Phelpses"). The Phelpses counterclaimed
against the Hardys and cross-claimed against Boise County,
alleging that Boise County failed to provide them proper
notice of tax deficiency. Following a bench trial, the
district court entered judgment quieting title to the
properties in the Hardys and denying the Phelpses'
counterclaim. The Phelpses appealed, asserting the lack of
notice makes the Hardys' deeds void.
Factual and Procedural Background
early 1980s, the Phelpses purchased seven parcels of property
in Mores Creek Heights, a subdivision in Boise County. Two of
those seven lots are at issue in this appeal ("Lot
26" and "Lot 27").
October 1, 2004, the Phelpses recorded a quitclaim deed and
trust transfer deed, transferring each of the seven lots into
their trust. Each deed contained the statement "Mail Tax
Statements to: Ronald O. Phelps, Donna J. Phelps, 1
Craftsbury Place, Ladera Ranch, CA 92694." The Phelpses
moved to this address in 2005 and resided there at the time
of the bench trial on November 16, 2017. The Phelpses signed
for the receipt of certified mail sent to the Ladera Ranch
address from Boise County as late as May 18, 2013, and again
on December 7, 2015; however, the Phelpses' mailing
address on file with Boise County beginning in 2009, and at
all times relevant here, was P.O. Box 1047, El Toro, CA,
92630. Boise County mailed notices regarding property taxes
on the lots to the Phelpses at the El Toro address beginning
Phelpses did not pay property taxes on the lots for 2010 or
any year thereafter. On or about March 21 and March 24, 2014,
Boise County ordered and obtained litigation guarantees from
Alliance Title for each of the Phelpses' seven lots. The
litigation guarantees listed the parties who have a publicly
recorded interest in each property. The computer program used
to produce the litigation guarantees searches all recorded
documents held by every county in Idaho, also searching for
nicknames, the names of spouses, maiden names of spouses, and
possible misspellings of names. Alliance Title's March
2014 litigation guarantee for Lot 26 and Lot 27 listed P.O.
Box 1047, El Toro, CA and 1 Craftsbury Place, Ladera Ranch,
CA as the two addresses for the Phelpses.
23, 2014, Boise County mailed multiple envelopes, each
containing a "Notice of Pending Issue of Tax Deed"
("Pending Issue Letter") that identified the
parcel, the names of the owners, the amount of delinquency,
the date of hearing, and the date that a tax deed to Boise
County would be issued if the delinquency was not cured.
Copies of this Pending Issue Letter for each of the
Phelpses' lots were sent by certified mail to P.O. Box
1047, El Toro, CA and to 1 Craftsbury Place, Ladera Ranch,
CA. Boise County also mailed the Pending Issue Letter by
ordinary mail to P.O. Box 1047, El Toro, CA 92630. The
letters each stated:
If said delinquency entry is not redeemed on or before July
22, 2014, by payment of said unpaid taxes together with late
charges, interest, and all costs and expenses . . . I shall
thereupon, as required by law, make application to the Board
of County Commissioners of Boise County, State of Idaho, for
a hearing to be held on July 23, 2014, at 10:00 AM, or as
soon thereafter as said application can be heard, at 420 Main
Street, Idaho City, ID for a Tax Deed conveying the above
described property to said Boise County . . . .
receiving no reply to the letters, on June 18, 2014, Boise
County published the first of four consecutive weekly
advertisements on the pending issuance of tax deeds for the
Phelpses' lots, including Lot 26 and Lot 27, in the Idaho
World newspaper (the newspaper of general circulation in
Boise County). The summary of the advertisement included the
names of Mr. and Ms. Phelps, the P.O. Box 1047, El Toro, CA
address, and the legal description of each of their seven
lots. The summary further stated that
the time of redemption of said property from said taxes
expires on July 22, 2014, at 5:00 PM, and if not paid a tax
deed will be issued to said County of Boise.
final advertisement ran on July 9, 2014.
20, 2014, Ms. Phelps emailed Boise County, requesting
confirmation that the Phelpses were "for sure up to date
on our taxes." On June 23, Boise County replied to Ms.
Phelps' email stating, "[y]our taxes are delinquent
an[d] you need to pay the 2010 taxes of $11, 908.79
[b]efore July 23, 2014 to avoid a tax deed." The reply
email does not mention the Pending Issue Letter or a specific
hearing. Ms. Phelps verified by affidavit that she received
this email but testified that she took the email to mean she
would get a more formal notice after July 23, 2014.
2, 2014, one of the envelopes containing the Pending Issue
Letter sent to the Phelpses at 1 Craftsbury Place, Ladera
Ranch, CA was returned as unclaimed to Boise County. On July
16, 2014, affidavits of compliance for the tax deed process
for Lot 26 and Lot 27 were recorded. The Boise County
Commissioners ("the Board") held a public hearing
and granted a motion to approve the properties on the tax
deed listing. The Board issued its Findings of Fact and
Conclusions of Law for Lot 26 and Lot 27 on July 22, 2014.
The Board found:
On May 16th [sic], 2014, [Boise County] caused to be served a
copy of the Notice of Pending Issue of Tax Deed by certified,
registered mail, return receipt demanded, upon the record
owner, at their last known address, for the above referenced
property; which was no more than five (5) months and no less
than two (2) months prior to the time set for the tax deed to
July 22, 2014, the Board signed the tax deeds for Lot 26 and
Lot 27. The tax deeds were recorded on July 24, 2014.
28, 2014, Boise County received two more unclaimed envelopes
that they had sent by certified mail to the Phelpses at 1
Craftsbury Place, Ladera Ranch, CA and to P.O. Box 1047, El
year later, on September 15, 2015, Boise County auctioned and
sold all seven of the Phelpses' lots. The Hardys
purchased Lot 26 and Lot 27 at the auction. The Phelpses took
no action to pay their taxes, to contest the tax sale, or to
redeem their lots prior to the auction.
September 22, 2015, Boise County granted the Hardys quitclaim
deeds for Lot 26 and Lot 27. The original quitclaim deeds
contained a spelling error, so the deeds were corrected and
re-recorded on September 30, 2015. The Hardys have paid the
property taxes on Lot 26 and Lot 27 every year since they
November 24, 2015, Boise County sent an excess funds letter
by certified mail to the Phelpses at 1 Craftsbury Place,
Ladera Ranch, CA 92694. On December 7, 2015, Ms. Phelps
signed for the letter. On February 8, 2016, Boise County
received a letter from the Phelpses requesting payment for
the excess proceeds from the tax sale. The letter requested
that the payment be sent to a new address, P.O. Box 3779,
Mission Viejo, CA 92690, even though the Phelpses maintained
this had been their address for "the last 10 plus
years." The March 2014 litigation guarantees did not
include the Mission Viejo address for the Phelpses.
Boise County issued quitclaim deeds to the Hardys, the Hardys
began making improvements to Lot 26 and Lot 27, which
included survey work, excavation, permitting, and the
building of a foundation. At the bench trial, the Hardys