By: Dylan Lackowitz
St. John’s Law Student
American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review Staff
Like other states, New Jersey allows third parties to purchase tax liens at auction. These liens against real property are a result of property owners failing to pay local property taxes. Successfully bidding on the lien at auction gives the purchaser the right to foreclose on the property and to seek a judgment on the debt note. In New Jersey, the bidding begins at 18% interest, and each bid lowers the interest rate that would have been assessed on the tax debt. Once the bidding reaches 0%, the bidding parties will then bid on a premium payable to the municipality holding the lien. The party that wins at auction pays the municipality the tax debt owed by the delinquent property owner and any premium incurred during the bidding process in exchange for the tax lien, as evidenced by a tax sale certificate and its accompanying rights. New Jersey law, however, also provides that any holder of a tax sale certificate, who knowingly charges or exacts an excess fee in connection with the redemption of any tax sale certificate, shall forfeit such tax sale certificate to the person who was charged such excessive fee. In In re Princeton Office Park, L.P., the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held that the United States Bankruptcy Code (the “Code”) does not preempt state law regarding the allowance of claims. Therefore, the Third Circuit held that Plymouth Park Tax Services LLC’s (“Plymouth”) claim in bankruptcy against Princeton Office Park L.P. (“Princeton”) was disallowed because Plymouth charged Princeton an excessive fee in connection with the redemption of a tax sale certificate.