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Widow loses home over $6.30 back taxes: Judge rules for county sale at auction

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A widow lost her home in Pennsylvania after the county she lives in auctioned it off to collect payment of an interest fee of $6.30 that had accrued on back taxes. She had paid off the back taxes years ago, but was unaware of the interest fee she claims. When Eileen Battisti paid her property taxes to Beaver County, which were in arrears, she didn’t pay the $6.30 interest because it wasn’t attached to the bill until after she settled up. That was a few years ago, according to MSN.com on April 29.

The back taxes that she owed had accrued this additional $6.30 in interest, but it posted to her account after she settled up her tax bill of $833.88. This $833.88 included the penalty and late fees and Battisti thought she was paid in full back in 2008. Late again on her taxes in 2010, she paid what she owed plus the late fees and penalty. That outstanding $6.30 was still unpaid and she was now accruing interest on the interest, according to Forbes News.

By 2011, the $6.30 had now ballooned to $255.84 and the Beaver County officials opted to put the house on the auction block so they can collect this interest on the back taxes out of the sale proceeds of the house. Battisti’s house is worth $280,000, but was sold for $120,000 at auction. Her share after the taxes and sale costs are deducted is $108,039. She doesn’t want the money, she wants to live in her home, the only home she has known for the last 15 years.

To add insult to injury, the man who purchased her home at the auction for $120,000 has offered to sell it back to her for $260,000. When Battisti took her case to court, the judge sided with the county, as the county followed the tax laws and did everything by the book.

So how did this happen?

On Battisti’s part it was the curves that life throws at you that left her financially strapped periodically throughout the years. Battisti and her husband purchased the home in 1999, but five years later her husband died, leaving her a widow with three kids to raise.

The life insurance paid off the mortgage on the house, but there were still the property taxes to pay, along with utilities, food and the rest of life’s expenses. She got in the rears with property taxes, but did eventually pay them off, except for that $6.30 in interest.

A few years later she suffered an injury that kept her out of work. Again she was late on her property taxes, but eventually paid them off including the penalties and late fees, but that $6.30 was still unpaid. The county taking her house for what started as a $6.30 interest bill, but now a $255.84 interest bill after more interest accrued seems ludicrous.

Apparently she had been contacted over and over again through the years about the $6.30 bill. They even had the sheriff come out and inform her of the outstanding $255.84 bill and their intentions of putting the house on the sheriff's auction to collect the bill.

The woman signed certified mail telling her that she had to pay or chance losing the house. This is the county’s side of the story. The judge looked at all the evidence and said that the county is not invested in taking people’s homes and apparently felt that Battisti was given more than ample warning. While he may or may not agree with the house being taken for the interest on back taxes, the county was precise in following the law in this case.

Battisti, who is still in the home, will appeal this court decision. Beaver County takes anywhere from 600 to 1,000 properties each year to auction off for back taxes. The sheriff sales on properties are conducted each month in Beaver County.

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