County Sells Widow's Home Over $6.00 Tax Bill

Three years ago, a Pennsylvania widow's $280,000 house was sold at a tax auction for $6.30 in unpaid interest, and last week an appellate judge ruled that the judgment would not be over-turned.

Court documents obtained by USA Today revealed that Beaver County Common Pleas Judge Gus Kwidis ruled that the homeowner, Eileen Battisti, was properly notified about the September 2011 tax sale of her home, which was valued at about $280,000 and sold at auction for $116,000. The decision last Tuesday followed an evidentiary hearing ordered by a higher court, which last April overturned his earlier ruling upholding the sale.

Battisti, who still lives in the house, told the Associated Press "I paid everything, and didn't know about the $6.30," she said. "For the house to be sold just because of $6.30 is crazy." Battisti further explained that she would appeal the judge's decision.

Battisti's attorney proclaimed in a statement to Beaver County Times that this was "something out of the ordinary" for a home to be sold for such a small tax claim, however Judge Kwidis said that he is without any doubt that homeowner received all of her notifications and was well aware of 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 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.

According to USA Today, the dispute involves school district taxes, penalties and interest for 2008, which Battisti paid in early May 2009. But because her payment was six days late, an additional interest payment of $6.30 was added. Battisti said she was never notified of the overdue interest after country tax authorities credited her account.

During the appeals process, Battisiti brought to light that her deceased husband was over the finances and that picking up where he left off proved to be more of a challenge that she bargained.

When completing a Beaver County tax search, records show that as of last week she has an outstanding balance of more than $20,000, including penalties and interest, for county, municipal and school taxes from 2009 to 2013.

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