Pennsylvania Judge Orders Widow’s House Sold For Failure To Pay $6.30 In Unpaid Interest

0012 RTBeaver County Common Pleas Judge Gus Kwidis is under file this week after he ordered the home of a widow, Eileen Battisti sold for failure to pay $6.30 in unpaid interest to the county. Kwidis ruled that Battisti had ample notice and only has herself to blame for losing her home. Others see the blame lying elsewhere in a decision that elevated a de minimus violation above simple justice.

Battisti’s husband took care of these bills but passed away. She says that she never noticed the remaining $6.30 due on interest. However, Kwidis held that the county tax claim bureau complied with notification requirements in state law before the auction and “[t]here is no doubt that (she) had actual receipt of the notification of the tax upset sale on July 7, 2011, and Aug. 16, 2011. Moreover, on Aug. 12, 2011, a notice of sale was sent by first class mail and was not returned.”

However, there remains that little question of justice — and the notion of discretion. If there is no role for a court to play in such matters, we could handle these cases by computer.

The couple had previously owed other taxes, but at the time of the sale owed just $235, including other interest and fees. They sold the house from under her for $116,000. Such sales usually generate low prices as distress sales.

Joe Askar, Beaver County’s chief solicitor, insisted that the country and the judge were right in forcing the sale, but then added “It’s bad – she had some hard times, I guess her husband kind of took care of a lot of that stuff. It seemed that she was having a hard time coping with the loss of her husband – that just made it set in a little more.” It is remarkable that Askar would acknowledge such mitigating circumstances over less than seven bucks and yet believe that this was an appropriate and justifiable act. It cost more for the prosecutors and court to meet to issue the order. It cost more to actually put the property up for sale. Yet, even with the mitigating factor of her husband’s death, this was not viewed as sufficient reason for a modicum of mercy.

Source: Washington Post

72 thoughts on “Pennsylvania Judge Orders Widow’s House Sold For Failure To Pay $6.30 In Unpaid Interest”

  1. Dredd, In Shaffer the court set aside the sale because the city failed to file its proof that notice was served prior to seeking a decree for the sale (it was filed later), and failed to file its proof that notice of the sale was served prior to the sale taking place (it was filed after the sale). It did not set aside the sale because the manner in which notice was given failed to comply with the statutes. The opinion references an earlier case establishing that notice deviating from the statutory requirement was sufficient where the owner had actual notice. In the present case, the court determined that the owner received actual notice on several occasions. I can’t tell from the news stories I’ve seen what facts that conclusion was based on, or whether the notice given complied with the statutory requirements.

  2. blhlls

    It is the owner who brought the legal action. The sale process in Pennsylvania doesn’t involve the court at all, and was complete before the court had any involvement in the matter. .

    Dredd, I can’t tell from the articles what evidence was actually presented. However I haven’t seen any support for the proposition that there was a defect in the county’s compliance with the notice and posting requirements. Of course, it would be helpful if coverage of legal matters actually included relevant facts.
    The quote from JT, which indicates they only used first class mail “that was not returned” may mean that on at least one occasion they did not use certified mail.

    The case I cited from the state supreme court there reversed a similar sale for that very reason.

    Like you say, the narratives sometimes do not clearly set forth relevant facts.

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