BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – For three years, Patricia Brown paid her Sewer and Garbage bills. She was shocked to learn her property taxes had not been paid; the city sold her Edge Park Avenue home at the annual foreclosure auction to cover the arrears.
Pat and her family say the tax bills were sent to the wrong address.
The widowed North Buffalo grandmother downsized from her big family home four years ago to a smaller house. Brown’s daughter, Debra Nasca said they put a lot of work, and money, into the smaller ranch home.
“We put a fireplace in, and we painted, and we had the floors done. We had rugs installed, basically, just to make it her house,” Nasca said.
But records show city officials sent Brown’s new property tax bills to her old address on Richmond Avenue, and when the taxes didn’t get paid, they foreclosed and then sold Pat’s house at the annual Tax Foreclosure auction for a fraction of what it is worth.
Brown bought the three-bedroom, 1,500 sq. ft. home for $175,000 in 2010, and with the improvements she believes it is worth even more. But four years later, the city auctioned the house for $125,000, or $50,000 less than she paid.
“She got her water and her garbage bills, because she pays them. But she never got the taxes,” said Nasca.
Annette Parker, a friend of the family and a retired Buffalo police officer, took Brown to City Hall to find out how the city could send some bills to the right address and others to the wrong one.
Parker said each city department has its own way of sending bills, “They did explain to me that when it comes to the garbage and sewer and water, they are not connected together in their system.”
In fact, Patricia and Debra only learned about the house being sold because Brown’s realtor just happened to be at the city auction when the Edge Park property was sold, and even told the buyer there had to be a mistake, “My mother would have never sold that house, and she would have never let it go into foreclosure. The guy said, ‘Well, I bought it’,” Nasca said.
Patricia Brown asked her daughter to contact Call 4 Action, when her American dream turned into a Buffalo nightmare, “Every time a bill came, I would pay it, and I have done that for my whole life, even on Richmond. There is never anything that I would not pay, because you are supposed to.”
Joe Kelemen of the Western New York Law Center has taken the city to court over its flawed foreclosure practices, and said these kinds of mistakes could be prevented, “They say they don’t have the staff to do anything more, and I think that is really a way of saying it is not a priority.”
Kelemen added, “There’s a lot of city employees, it is just how you are going to use them, and for what.”
Brown now has to go to court to try to save her home, but her window of opportunity to put the sale on hold is quickly shrinking.