Eileen Battisti owed $6.30 in interest on school district taxes. That was enough, a Pennsylvania court has ruled, for her to lose her house over.
Judge Gus Kwidis of Beaver County denied Battist’s petition last week to reverse the September 2011 sale of her home. The home was put up for sale after Battisti paid her school district taxes six days late back in 2008, and never paid the $6.30 interest fee on the late payment. 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 situation may seem crazy to her, but the court disagrees. This latest decision comes after a higher court overturned the sale and ordered an evidentiary hearing in April. After all the evidence had been collected, Judge Kwidis stood by his earlier to decision not to stop the sale of the house, insisting that Battisti had known she was in debt.
“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,” he wrote in the decision, according to the AP. “Moreover, on Aug. 12, 2011, a notice of sale was sent by first class mail and was not returned.”
Cases like Battisti’s are predicated on old lending laws, but have become more and more common as municipalities focus in on budgetary concerns. 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.