Ulan v. Pima County Bd. of Supervisors – 10/31/2006

November 6, 2006

Arizona Court of Appeals Division Two Affirms 16% Cap on Tax Lien Interest.

Appellants, the Ulans, were the purchasers of tax lien certificates under ARS 42-18118. Under ARS 42-18114 and –18153, a tax lien purchaser may charge a property owner redeeming its tax lien interest on the amount paid by the purchaser. Appellants purchased various liens in February 2003 and asked the Pima County Treasurer to calculate the interest due them starting February 1. Instead, the Treasurer calculated the interest starting March 1 and the Ulans sued. The superior court denied their motion for partial summary judgment and dismissed their complaint. They appealed.

Ruling purely as a matter of statutory construction, Division Two, in an opinion by Judge Espinosa, affirmed. Division Two agreed that ARS 42-18114 is unclear as to when interest begins to accrue on the purchase of a tax lien certificate. The Court noted, however, that 42-18053(A) establishes a maximum rate of simple interest of 16% on all tax delinquencies. The Court also noted that tax liens must be sold to the lowest bidder. Thus, the Court held that because the Ulans’ method of calculation would exceed the 16% cap, their interpretation is barred by the statutes and that the Superior Court did not err in dismissing their complaint.

Judge Eckerstrom and Judge Brammer concurred in the decision of Judge Espinosa.