Pa. judge upholds sale of widow's home over $6 tax bill

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by Michael Winter, USA TODAY

KING5.com

Posted on April 29, 2014 at 6:26 AM

A Pennsylvania county judge has again ruled against a widow who lost her home because of an unpaid $6.30 interest charge for paying her school taxes late.

Beaver County Common Pleas Judge Gus Kwidis ruled that Eileen Battisti, of Aliquippa, 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 on Monday that she would appeal.

"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."

Her attorney told the Beaver County Times that it was " something out of the ordinary" for a home to be sold for such a small tax claim.

Beaver County's top solicitor defended the 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," Joe Askar told AP.

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.

When her home was sold, the Tax Claim Bureau of Beaver County said she was delinquent $234.72.

Battisti sued the county and the man who bought her house, S.P. Lewis.

Battisti and her husband, Anthony, bought their home in 1999. Five years later, he died, leaving her with the household finances and taxes, which he had handled. She paid off the mortgage from his life insurance but fell behind on property taxes.

In appealing the sale, Battisti told the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania that she "has struggled to assume responsibility for the financial matters previously handled by her husband," in addition to "physical and emotional challenges that have caused her to be tardy in paying taxes."

Those challenges included "a serious physical injury suffered by her daughter, the murder of her son's best friend at college, and a serious physical injury that kept Taxpayer out of work for some time."

In April 2013, the court ordered a new hearing, saying Battisti had been denied due process.

Tax 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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