Pennsylvania widow who nearly lost home over $6.30 wins reprieve

Eileen Battisti's house in Aliquippa, Pa.
Keith Srakocic | AP
Eileen Battisti's house in Aliquippa, Pa.

A Pennsylvania widow whose residence was auctioned off because of $6.30 in unpaid interest won a court ruling Monday giving her a chance to argue that she should not lose the $280,000 home.

The Commonwealth Court decided that it was a mistake for a Beaver County, Pa., judge to rule against Eileen Battisti without first holding an evidentiary hearing, according to a court document.

"This was particularly inappropriate because the outstanding liability was small and the value of the home was far greater than the amount paid by [the] purchaser," wrote Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt, according to the court documents.

Leavitt said the state Supreme Court has "emphasized that due process under both the United States and the Pennsylvania Constitutions must be satisfied whenever the government subjects a citizen's property to forfeiture for nonpayment for taxes."

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Battisti's lawyer said the woman still lives in her Aliquippa house, even though it was sold nearly two years ago for roughly $116,000, according to The Associated Press.

Battisti then appealed the sale in county court, which decided in May 2012 that she had received all notices required by law. However, just a month later, a judge ordered that the Beaver County Tax Claim Bureau could not issue a deed to the property to the buyer while Battisti appealed, the AP reported.

Leavitt, in her opinion Monday, said Battisti was beset with a series of personal setbacks and had trouble handling finances after the 2004 death of her husband, who managed their money.

She later fell behind on assorted tax bills, but was under the impression she had paid them all in full, even though some were tardy, according to the AP.

The $6.30 penalty was included in her tax bill in 2009, which ballooned with interests and costs to $235 by late 2011, when her home was sold at auction, according to the AP.

The Associated Press contributed to this report