Share This Page

Homeowner had pre-sale alerts, Beaver County judge finds

| Friday, April 25, 2014, 9:34 p.m.

A Beaver County woman contesting the sale of her $280,000 house over a $6.30 late fee lost another round in court but will fight to take her case before a state appeals court, she said on Friday.

County Judge C. Gus Kwidis this week ruled against Eileen F. Battisti, 53, of Center, who claims county officials improperly sold her Rosewood Drive home at a September 2011 tax sale. She has said the county failed to provide her proper notifications about the sale or about the six-day late fee that put her house on the block.

The fee on her 2008 school property taxes ballooned to $234.72 with interest and other costs when S.P. Lewis of Imperial bought the home for $116,000, according to court records.

“The county is never satisfied when they have to sell a house,” said county Solicitor Joseph Askar. He said county officials must follow the state tax sale law, which mandates a sale if a bill is more than two years overdue.

Askar referred to findings by Kwidis, who wrote in a six-page order that there “is no doubt” that Battisti “had actual receipt” of pre-sale alerts in the summer of 2011.

Askar estimated Beaver County sells 600 to 1,000 properties a year over unpaid taxes, and he said few lead to such litigation.

Battisti and her lawyer, Ed Santillan, vowed to seek an appeal of Kwidis' decision before the Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg.

Kwidis wrote in his order that Battisti admitted to receiving pre-sale notices on July 7 and Aug. 16, 2011. She is entitled to $108,039 in proceeds from the sale after her tax obligations are met, Kwidis wrote.

“She's going to get that money, but she's going to lose her house. All the notice requirements were met,” Kwidis said on Friday. “In tax assessment laws, even if I feel sorry for her, I can't do anything to help her. ... Everyone felt bad about it.”

Santillan said Battisti does not want the proceeds from the tax sale, preferring instead to keep the home. He said she would lose about $200,000 in equity if she accepts the sale proceeds.

“Yes, I had issues. I'm a widow. I'm raising three kids on my own, trying to put them through college,” Battisti said. “Yes, it took me a while to get the bills, but I pay my bills. To steal a house for $6 is ludicrous.”

Santillan said he expects the county Common Pleas Court will allow Battisti to stay in the house while she follows the appeals process. The county court allowed her to stay through earlier stages of her appeals, which landed before the Commonwealth Court last year.

At that point, it ruled the county court was wrong in depriving Battisti of an evidentiary hearing earlier in the legal process. The Commonwealth Court in August ordered the case to return to Beaver County.

Kwidis presided over an evidentiary hearing on March 27, then ruled on Tuesday to uphold the sale of Battisti's house. She said Lewis, who bought the home, has offered to return it to her for a “ridiculous” $260,000.

Lewis' attorney could not be reached. Santillan said Battisti has kept paying as much of her property tax bills as the Tax Claim Bureau will accept while the case is appealed.

“I'm going to fight it until my dying day,” Battisti said.

Adam Smeltz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5676 or asmeltz@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.