Woman Loses Her Home Over a $6 Tax Bill

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A judge upholds the sale of a Pennsylvania home after a widow failed to pay overdue interest on a tax bill.

Imagine losing your home over $6.30 in unpaid interest. That’s the harsh reality for a Pennsylvania woman whose $280,000 house in Aliquippa was reportedly sold at a tax auction for $116,000.

According to The Associated Press, a Pennsylvania judge recently upheld the 2011 tax sale of Eileen Battisti’s house, which she bought with her husband in 1999.

After her husband died five years later, she used his life insurance to pay off the mortgage, Forbes said. But Battisti had trouble keeping up with other bills, including the property taxes owed on the house.

In 2008, she was six days late paying her property taxes. She ended up paying the $833.88 due, plus the penalties and fees, but she didn’t pay the $6.30 in accrued interest.

In her defense, she may not have known about the interest, as it was not yet included on the tax bill for late payment, Forbes said.

That $6.30 in unpaid interest ballooned to $255.84 by 2011, and Beaver County sold her house at a tax auction.

Battisti claims she had no notice of the debt or the auction. She also said she was unaware that she had a delinquent tax bill from 2008, according to Forbes.

The county claims, however, that Battisti was notified of the delinquency beginning in 2009. However, a June 3, 2009, “notice of return and claim” was returned to the county as undelivered and the county can’t prove that they provided subsequent notice in 2009.

The AP said Beaver County Common Pleas Judge Gus Kwidis wrote that the county tax claim bureau complied with state notification requirements before the auction.

“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.”

Joe Askar, Beaver County’s chief solicitor, said that based on the law, Kwidis made the right decision.

“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 still lives in the house. She told the AP that she plans to again appeal the sale of her home.

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