October 10, 2017
From Charleston County R. Markley Dennis, Jr., Circuit Court
Alan Berlinsky, of Charleston, for Appellant.
R. Anderson, of Law Office of Steven R. Anderson, and James
B. Richardson, Jr., both of Columbia, for Respondent.
action to quiet title to a property sold at a tax sale, Mary
Ravenel appeals the trial court's finding the tax sale of
her property valid. Ravenel contends (1) the trial court
erred in failing to take testimony; (2) the tax sale was void
because the property was not levied, advertised, and sold in
the name of the true owner; (3) judicial estoppel does not
apply because Ravenel was not a party to the previous action;
and (4) the delinquent tax collector did not comply with
statutory requirements in sending notice to Ravenel. We
affirm as modified.
subject real property is a home and land originally purchased
by Ravenel on October 22, 2001. While Ravenel purchased five
lots in total, only the lot on which she built her home was
sold at the tax sale and is the subject of this appeal.
Ravenel conveyed all five lots to her daughter and son,
Lashanda Ravenel and Henry Lee Ravenel II, (collectively,
Children) via a deed dated November 6, 2007, for the stated
consideration of "$5, love and affection." On
November 7, 2007, Ravenel filed for bankruptcy and did not
indicate the recent conveyance on her sworn schedules.
recorded the deed but never delivered the deed to Children,
nor told them about the conveyance. Subsequently, the
property taxes on the home became delinquent for the year
2007. The Charleston County Delinquent Tax Collector (DTC)
first sent an execution notice to Children by regular mail,
dated April 7, 2008, at the address given on the deed
conveying the property to Children. This notice informed
Children if the amount due was not paid, an official notice
of levy would be mailed to them, the property would be
advertised in the Charleston Post & Courier, a sign would
be placed on the property announcing it would be sold due to
nonpayment of taxes, and finally, the property would be sold.
the 2007 taxes remained unpaid, the DTC levied upon the
property by way of a levy notice sent by certified mail to
Children's address dated May 22, 2008. This notice was
returned unclaimed to the DTC on May 24, marked "Return
to Sender, Unable to Forward." A sign was placed on the
property on August 1, 2008, announcing the property was to be
sold due to the nonpayment of taxes. The property was
advertised in the local newspaper on August 15, 22, and 29,
2008. The DTC then sent the Final Notice of Property
Redemption, also by certified mail, one to each of Children
and one to them jointly, all of which were returned marked
"Return to Sender/Unable to Forward" on October 26,
2009. The DTC then sent a courtesy copy of this notice by
regular mail. After receiving the courtesy redemption letter,
which was addressed to Children, Ravenel called the DTC to
try and redeem the property. DTC informed Ravenel that in
order to save the property, she would have to pay the
redemption amount of $27, 849.06, which she did not
the taxes remained unpaid, the property was sold at the tax
sale on November 3, 2008, to Equifunding. Notices of
redemption were sent to Children but were returned to the DTC
unclaimed. These notices were addressed to Children at the
address given in the deed conveying the property to them.
This address was the same post office box shown as the
address on the deed conveying the property to Ravenel. This
post office box belonged to Ravenel's mother, who would
collect the mail and bring it to her daughter. Because the
property was not redeemed, a tax deed was delivered to
Equifunding. Equifunding thereby conveyed the subject real
property to Equivest Financial, LLC in a deed recorded on
October 4, 2010.
2010, Children brought an action to quiet title to set aside
the tax deed. In her testimony, Ravenel provided the reason
for the transfer of the property to Children was to protect
the assets from her creditors. The Master-in-Equity found the
tax sale was valid and Ravenel had not delivered the deed to
Children. The master found Ravenel's conveyance to
Children was in violation of the Statute of Elizabeth, as she
intended to defraud her creditors, and thus found the deed to
the children was void and of no effect. Children appealed to
this court, which affirmed the decision of the master on the
grounds that Ravenel had not delivered the deed to Children.
Equivest Fin., LLC v. Scarborough, Op. No.
2013-UP-495 (S.C. Ct. App. filed Dec. 23, 2013).
Equivest commenced the present action to quiet title as to
Ravenel because she was not a party to the first action. The
trial court held Ravenel was judicially estopped from
claiming she did not receive notice of the tax sale, as she
was the one who attempted to fraudulently convey the
property. The court further held the two-year statute of
limitations applied, making the tax sale incontestable. This