When her husband died about a decade ago, Pennsylvanian Eileen Battisti was obviously distraught. One might imagine the furthest thing from her mind was taking care of an unpaid interest bill on her home.
In the interim, though, reports indicate she failed to pay the balance; and the house was auctioned off about three years ago.
While this would be a tragic, although unremarkable, case had Battisti ignored thousands of dollars in mounting debt, what makes her story noteworthy is the miniscule amount she actually owed.
She said she made every effort to pay the bills she knew about following her husband’s death and somehow missed the roughly $6 she owed in interest. Nevertheless, the local government claimed it provided sufficient notice of the past-due bill – which had grown to $235 at the time of the sale – and impending auction.
A county judge upheld that decision this week, allowing the sale to stand and dismissing Battisti’s appeal.
Judge Gus Kwidis wrote in his decision that there “is no doubt” Battisti “had actual receipt of the notification of the tax upset sale on July 7, 2011, and Aug. 16, 2011.”
He said a notice was sent via first-class mail – and not returned – informing her of the auction.
Few are arguing the county and judge are legally incorrect in their assertion. Based on the letter of the law, Beaver County Chief Solicitor Joe Askar stands by the ruling.
“The county never wants to see anybody lose their home,” he said, “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.”
He concluded that Battisti “had some hard times” following the death of her husband, who he said “kind of took care of a lot of that stuff.”
Having her home sold at auction only “made it set in a little more,” he noted.
Battisti contends that, for whatever reason, she was unaware of the bill.
“I paid everything,” she said, “and didn’t know about the $6.30. For the house to be sold just because of $6.30 is crazy.”
She plans to appeal the ruling in Commonwealth Court. If unsuccessful, she will receive the bulk of the $116,000 bid for the property at auction.
Local reports offer no indication of the home’s estimated market value.