Second suit filed against Charleston attorney's real estate company

CHARLESTON – A second lawsuit alleges a real estate holding company owned by a Charleston attorney failed to conduct due diligence in notifying the former owner of property it bought at a tax sale of her ability to get it back.

NAJ, LLC is named as a co-defendant in a lawsuit filed by Amy F. Thomas. In her complaint filed May 23, Thomas, 34, of Cross Lanes, alleges NAJ and its owner, Robert Johns, who is named as a co-defendant, did not properly notify her she could reclaim the home she relinquished in 2010 because of delinquent taxes.

Thomas' suit mirrors allegations made earlier this year by a Jackson County woman who claims NAJ, after it bought her home at a tax sale, did not take exhaustive steps to notify her of her ability to buy it back.

Wrong address

According to her suit, Thomas, along with Morgan Clark, were co-owners of 161 Lake Shore Drive in the Lake Chaweva subdivision. When they became delinquent on paying the 2009 and 2010 property taxes, NAJ bought it for $573.55 on Nov. 10, 2010 at a tax sale conducted by the Kanawha County Sheriff's Department.

By law, before NAJ could formally claim title to the property, it had to notify Thomas of her right to redeem it. In her suit, Thomas says while NAJ did send her notice earlier this year, it sent it to the wrong address.

According to Thomas, NAJ sent a notice to redeem to the 161 Lake Shore Drive address. In the notice, NAJ said the property could again become hers if she paid $1,039.45, which included the back taxes, a $345 title search fee and $97.50 in interest.

However, Thomas maintains after the tax sale, she stayed in the Lake Chaweva subdivision and moved to 56 Lake Shore Drive. Because NAJ failed to send her the notice to redeem at her current address, she maintains the tax deed the Kanawha County Clerk's Office gave NAJ on April 10 is no good.

In her suit, Thomas asks that the tax deed be set aside, and she by allowed to buy the property back. Along with the $1,039.45, Thomas says she's "prepared to reimburse NAJ, LLC all fees.

The case is assigned to Judge James C. Stucky.

Similar story in Jackson County

In February, Ora B. Thomas failed suit against NAJ in Jackson Circuit Court alleging after a notice to redeem was returned as "undelieverable" it failed to take "additional reasonable steps" to notify her about redeeming the property including "constructive notice by publication" in a newspaper of general circulation. According to her suit, NAJ purchased Thomas' home on Ravenswood Pike in Ripley for $1,563 at a Nov. 19, 2008 tax sale when she failed to pay her 2007 property taxes.

Records show NAJ was given title to the property on May 18, 2010. In her suit, Ora Thomas seeks not only a court order setting aside the deed given to NAJ, but also compensation in the amount of taxes require to redeem the property and those paid since 2010 plus 12 percent interest.

A trial date in the case has yet to be scheduled.

According to the Secretary of State's Office, NAJ is a limited liability company located on Timberline Place in Cross Lanes. It was incorporated in February 2000 to "acquire, improve, lease, operate, and hold real properties for investment."

Along with being the organizer, Johns is the company's managing member. Records show the company's articles of incorporation were drafted by Johns' current law partner, Wendel B. Turner, when both worked at Jackson Kelly.

Kanawha Circuit Court, case number 12-C-957

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