How Does this Happen?
A western Pennsylvania woman - Eileen Battisti owed $6.30 in unpaid interest on school district taxes, That was enough, a Pennsylvania court has ruled, for her to lose her house over. Battisti’s husband died in 2004, and she told the court that she had “struggled to assume responsibility for the financial matters previously handled by her husband” after his death. “I paid everything, and didn’t know about the $6.30,” Battisti told the Associated Press. “For the house to be sold just because of $6.30 is crazy.” By the time the house was put up for sale, the debt had ballooned to $255.84. The house itself, which was valued at $280,000 when it was sold, went for $116,000.
The decision last week turned down Eileen Battisti's request to reverse the September 2011 sale of her home outside Aliquippa in western Pennsylvania. "I paid everything, and didn't know about the $6.30," Battisti said. "For the house to be sold just because of $6.30 is crazy."
Beaver County Common Pleas Judge Gus Kwidis wrote that the county tax claim bureau complied with notification requirements in state law before the auction. She had previously owed other taxes, but at the time of the sale she owed just $235, including other interest and fees."There is no doubt that (she) had actual receipt of the notification of the tax upset sale on July 7, 2011, and Aug. 16, 2011," the judge wrote. "Moreover, on Aug. 12, 2011, a notice of sale was sent by first class mail and was not returned."
The property sold for about $116,000, and most of that money will be paid to Battisti if further appeals are unsuccessful. An attorney for the purchaser did not return a phone message on Monday. Joe Askar, Beaver County's chief solicitor, said the judge got the decision right, based on the law. "The county never wants to see anybody lose their home, but at the same time the tax sale law, the tax real estate law, doesn't give a whole lot of room for error, either," Askar said. Battisti said her husband handled the paperwork for the property's taxes before he passed away in 2004. "It's bad — she had some hard times, I guess her husband kind of took care of a lot of that stuff," Askar said. "It seemed that she was having a hard time coping with the loss of her husband — that just made it set in a little more."
The National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) blames the growing problem on “Inadequate notice and a lack of judicial oversight over the process,” which leaves homeowners at risk, especially those that “have fallen into default because they are incapable of handling their financial affairs, such as individuals suffering from Alzheimers, dementia, or other cognitive disorders.”
The NCLC points out that this problem is all too frequent. A Baltimore woman, for example, lost her home over a $362 unpaid water bill because she couldn’t pay the $3,600 of interest on it. In another case, a Rhode Island woman got kicked out of her house two weeks before Christmas because of a $474 sewer bill.
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Lang Premier Properties are Birmingham Realtors specializing in Oakland County Real Estate. Stephanie is an agent with Max Broock in Birmingham, Michigan. See what past clients have to say about Stephanie Lang. Lang Premier Properties looks out for your best interests when you purchase a new custom luxury home. We always recommend working with an experienced luxury real estate agent when buying a new luxury estate.