CAROLYN'S COMPOSITIONS

December 31, 2008

SHOULD THIS HOUSE HAVE SOLD AT A TAX SALE?

Filed under: COMMENTARY — carolyncholland @ 3:38 am
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CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS

SHOULD THIS HOUSE HAVE SOLD AT A TAX SALE?

And an 86-year old woman displaced after 60 years in her home

     Sixty years. Almost all of my life, and all but sixteen years of Dolly Silbaugh’s life.
     That’s how long Silbaugh has lived in her home on the Farmington Ohiopyle Road, Wharton Township, Fayette County, Pennsylvania. During that time she raised four children. Today, she is homebound there.
     All it will take now, to remove her from her home, is a signature on a deed. A signature that will make the transaction legal, since, in October, the house was legitimately sold to Joseph F. John of Greensboro, Greene County, for $20,000, at a tax sale.
     The story was reported in the December 20, 2008, issue of the Tribune Review (Greensburg, PA). This commentary is based on the assumption that the facts reported in the story are true.
     Silbaugh’s taxes were $1,400 in arrears. Sarah Thomas, tax claim bureau director, stated that the house was sold based on unpaid taxes. To avoid a tax sale, a person listed on the property deed must go to the tax office and do a payment plan. It cannot be done over the phone.
     Silbaugh signed two certified letters sent to her regarding her delinquent taxes, one in March the other in April. The April letter was a notice of sale for the property that was posted in August.
     According to Silbaugh’s daughter, Mary Morrison, who also lives at the home, once Silbaugh received the notices that the back taxes needed to be paid, she took action, and, even though she was on a fixed income, she paid $1,000 of the $1400 that was owed. This gave her cause to believe that the sale was invalid. Do the math. It’s $400. For $400 an 86-year old homebound woman will lose her home of 60 years.
     Silbaugh will now have to find and adjust to a new residence. This adjustment is difficult for any person who moves. I know. I did not have the luxury of living in any home for more than eight years. It can be traumatic, and takes about five years to adjust to a new community. At age 86, this means one might not have the time to make that adjustment.
     How many elderly persons are caught in such a dilemma? This is a population that is not accustomed to the complexity and fast-changes of today’s culture. Reading documents and understanding the fine print, the multitudinous complications in the wording. Life was once more simple. Pay your taxes. Pay your back taxes. Remove the threat. And Silbaugh was caught. Neither she nor her daughter realized they had to make a payment plan.
     Silbaugh is challenging the sale by filing an exception through a Uniontown law firm. Joseph F. John, who has often bought tax sale properties, plans to represent his interests by attending any hearings. He stated that he was not in the business of throwing people out of their homes. He also stated that he does not believe in taxes, but he didn’t create them. If Silbaugh wins her case, he will be refunded his money. However, he is unsure if he would appeal that decision.
     True, Silbaugh should not have been behind in her taxes. Why she was delinquent is unexplained, but understandable. However, she made a good faith effort in catching up on the payments. She understood this much: she had to do this in order to save her home. But to take away a homebound 86-year olds home for $400 seems a little extreme to me, especially when she made what was probably an extreme effort to catch up on the financial delinquency.
     Compassion. Where is it in Fayette County in 2008? Yes, there are rules and regulations. And there are persons who play the game properly, and these are often the persons who become caught in a net and trapped in unescapable situations. The wealthy person and the cheat know the exitways from the nets.
     Perhaps it would behoove John to “sacrifice” a little. Perhaps he needs to reduce the stress in a homebound elderly woman by not only refusing to accept the deed, but by backing out so that the exception hearing would not even be necessary. After all, what does he have to lose beyond his effort to purchase the property and the temporary loss of funds to hold the property?
     A little kindness and compassion can go a long way.

ADDITIONAL READING:

CAUGHT BETWEEN TWO WORLDS

MORALITY IN WRITING

MUSTANG SALLY’S GUIDE TO WORLD BICYCLE TOURING

SHE WAS OLD NOW

HEARTBEAT

VOICES OF WILDERNESS: PEACE MEETING

MY SIDE OF THE VIGIL

LET MIND GIVE WAY TO HEART

DAVID PAGE: Notes from St. David’s Writer’s Conference

LOSS AND LOVE

A MOTHER’S FINAL RETALIATION

DAVID Part 1 of a 10 Part Romance Story

DAVID Part 2 of a 10 Part Romance Story

DAVID Part 3 of a 10 Part Romance Story

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