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Pawlik v. Deng

Supreme Court of Nevada, En Banc

March 1, 2018

PAUL PAWLIK, Appellant,
v.
SHYANG-FENN DENG AND LINDA HSIANG-YU CHIANG DENG, TRUSTEES OF THE SHYANG-FENN AND LINDA HSIANG-YU CHIANG DENG REVOCABLE TRUST DATED AUGUST 18, 2006; VANETTA APPLEYARD, TREASURER OF THE CITY OF LAS VEGAS; AND THE CITY OF LAS VEGAS, A POLITICAL SUBDIVISION, Respondents.

         Appeal from a district court order granting a motion to dismiss and denying a petition for a writ of mandamus in an action to quiet title. Eighth Judicial District Court, Clark County; Michelle Leavitt, Judge.

          Walsh, Baker & Rosevear P.C. and James M. Walsh, Reno, for Appellant.

          Black & LoBello and Steven J. Mack, Las Vegas, for Respondents Shyang-Fenn Deng and Linda Hsiang-Yu Chiang Deng, Trustees of the Shyang-Fenn and Linda Hsiang-Yu Chiang Deng Revocable Trust dated August 18, 2006.

          Bradford R. Jerbic, City Attorney, and John A. Curtas, Deputy City Attorney, Las Vegas, for Respondents Vanetta Appleyard, Treasurer of the City of Las Vegas, and the City of Las Vegas.

          OPINION

          GIBBONS, J.

         In this appeal we are asked to interpret NRS 271.595, a statute governing redemption of property sold for default on city tax assessments. The issue is how to interpret two distinct redemption periods in NRS 271.595: one that creates a clear redemption period of two years for residential properties, and a second that creates an ambiguous 60-day redemption window after notice that the certificate of sale holder will demand a deed for the property. The parties dispute whether the 60-day period begins at the end of the first two-year redemption period, or whether the 60-day period may run concurrently at the end of the two-year period. The district court read NRS 271.595 as creating two distinct redemption periods that cannot overlap and dismissed appellant Paul Pawlik's quiet title action and petition for a writ of mandamus. We agree with the district court, and, to protect the redemption rights of former owners, we hold that NRS 271.595 creates two consecutive redemption periods.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Respondents Shyang-Fenn Deng and Linda Hsiang-Yu Chiang Deng, as trustees of their revocable trust (the Dengs), defaulted on special assessments on their Las Vegas residential real property, which entered delinquency. As a result, the property underwent a duly noticed and authorized sale, under NRS Chapter 271. On January 27, 2014, Pawlik (or his predecessor-in-interest) purchased the real property at the sale and was issued a sales certificate. Under NRS 271.595(1), the Dengs were then entitled to a two-year redemption period from that date.[1] On January 7, 2016, Pawlik began attempting to serve the Dengs with notice of the upcoming expiration of the redemption period and Pawlik's intent to apply for a deed pursuant to NRS 271.595(3).

         On March 14, 2016, 47 days after the Dengs' two-year redemption period expired and 67 days after Pawlik began attempting service, Pawlik applied to respondent the Las Vegas City Treasurer for issuance of a deed to the property. The Treasurer refused to issue the deed to Pawlik, and the Dengs later redeemed on April 6, 2016, by making full payment to the City of Las Vegas. Pawlik subsequently filed a complaint to quiet title and applied for a writ of mandamus in the district court compelling the Treasurer to issue the deed. In turn, the Dengs filed a motion to dismiss. The district court granted the Dengs' motion to dismiss and denied Pawlik's petition for a writ of mandamus, interpreting NRS 271.595 to require that the 60-day notice and additional redemption period begin after the end of the two-year redemption period. Because Pawlik had attempted service on the Dengs prior to the end of the two-year redemption period and because this provided the Dengs with less than two years and 60 days of redemption, the district court found Pawlik had provided the Dengs with premature and ineffective notice. Accordingly, the Dengs were allowed to redeem their property. Pawlik now appeals that order.

         DISCUSSION

         NRS 271.595(3) creates an additional 60-day notice and redemption period

         This court reviews questions of statutory interpretation de novo. Pankopf v. Peterson, 124 Nev. 43, 46, 175 P.3d 910, 912 (2008); City of Las Vegas v. Eighth Judicial Dist Court, 124 Nev. 540, 554, 188 P.3d 55, 58 (2008) ("Even in the context of a writ proceeding, we review questions of statutory interpretation de novo."). "When the language of a statute is clear on its face, this court will not go beyond the statute's plain language." J.E. Dunn Nw., Inc. v. Corus Constr. Venture, LLC, 127 Nev. 72, 79, 249 P.3d 501, 505 (2011) (internal quotations and alterations omitted). However, if the statutory language is subject to two or more reasonable interpretations, the statute is ambiguous, and we then look beyond the statute to the legislative history and interpret the statute in a reasonable manner "in light of the policy and the spirit of the law." Id. (internal quotations omitted); see Pankopf, 124 Nev. at 46, 175 P.3d at 912.

         Pawlik argues the district court's interpretation of NRS 271.595 is incorrect because the statute contains no language mandating that the 60-day notice period begin only after the two-year redemption period expires. In response, the Dengs argue Pawlik's interpretation would allow a certificate holder to completely overlap the 60-day period with the two-year period, thus rendering the additional 60-day redemption period meaningless. However, Pawlik counters that attaching the 60-day period to the end of the two-year period causes "at least 26 mandatory months to exist in a statute that contemplates 24 months of redemption period."

         NRS 271.595(3) states "[i]f no redemption is made within the period of redemption as determined pursuant to subsection 1, the treasurer shall, on demand of the purchaser or the purchaser's assigns, . . . execute to the purchaser or the purchaser's assigns a deed to the property." This provision is plainly a mandate to the treasurer to execute a deed once the certificate holder has fulfilled the requirements of NRS 271.595. Additionally, "[n]ti deed may be executed until the holder of the certificate of sale has notified the owners of the property that he or she holds the certificate, and will demand a deed therefor." This plainly mandates that the owners of the property must be notified prior to execution of the deed and the treasurer may not act until that notice has been given. Based on this provision alone, it would appear that a certificate holder could notify the owners at any time subsequent to obtaining the certificate of sale that he intends to demand the deed at the expiration of the redemption period set forth in subsection 1.

If redemption is not made within 60 days after the date of service, or the date of the first publication of the notice as the case may be, the holder of the certificate of sale is entitled to a deed.

         This provision creates ambiguity. As Pawlik argues, it is a reasonable interpretation of this statute that the entire notice period could take place during the redemption period prescribed in subsection 1, thus making the property owner automatically eligible for a deed at the end of that prescribed redemption period. However, the Dengs are also correct that this interpretation ignores portions of NRS 271.595(4) as they relate to the rest of the statute. Under the other provisions of NRS 271.595, the holder of the certificate of sale is not entitled to a deed after giving 60 days of notice, rather he must wait the remainder of the period outlined in subsection 1. Thus, the only way the certificate holder would be entitled to a deed at the end of a 60-day notice period is if the redemption period prescribed in subsection 1 had already expired. Additionally, under the other provisions of NRS 271.595, owners are given the full period outlined in subsection 1 to redeem, not 60 days. The only way property owners seeking redemption would be limited to a 60-day window is if that 60-day window exists outside the window prescribed in subsection 1. Therefore, it is also a reasonable interpretation of NRS 271.595 that the 60-day notice and redemption period outlined in subsection 4 must occur after the end of the redemption period outlined in subsection 1.

         Thus, when viewing NRS 271.595 as a whole, both parties' interpretations of subsection 4 are reasonable, and so we look beyond NRS 271.595 to resolve this ambiguity. In doing so, we recognize that "[a] statute must be construed as to give meaning to all of [its] parts and language. . . [and] a statute should not be read in a manner that renders a part of a statute meaningless." V & S Ry. LLC v. White Pine Cty., 125 Nev. 233, 239, 211 P.3d 879, 882 (2009) (internal quotations omitted) (citations omitted) (quoting Harris Assocs, v. Clark Cty. Sch, Dist., 119 Nev. 638, 642, 81 P.3d 532, 534 (2003)).

         We determine the meaning of a statute's words by "examining the context and the spirit of the law" by looking to "the statute's multiple legislative provisions as a whole, " Leven v. Frey, 123 Nev. 399, 405, 168 P.3d 712, 716 (2007). NRS Chapter 271 states in relevant part that its provisions should be "broadly construed" and that the "notices herein provided are reasonably calculated to inform each interested person of his or her legally protected rights." NRS 271.020(5)-(6). NRS 271.595 carves out a redemption period for the former owners of the property who have become delinquent on city tax assessments. The statute outlines a number of hurdles the certificate holder must overcome to divest the former owners of their power of redemption and rights to the property. While the certificate holder does indeed have a right to an eventual deed upon compliance with NRS 271.595, the overriding interest of the statute is to create a process designed to protect the ...


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