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In the early 2000s, my paternal grandmother died. Because my father had predeceased her, his share of her property flowed down to his children, leaving me with a 1/12th interest in her home. I was an attorney at the time, but not yet working in real estate, and it simply wasn’t on my radar scope. It never appeared on my radar in part because my crazy uncle just continued to use the home as a storage facility and paid taxes.
Fast forward a bit. My uncle stopped paying taxes at some point, so in 2017, the house was sold in what Pennsylvania calls an “upset sale.” The sales price was ~$8,500 to pay off the tax bill. Of course, I didn’t know any of this was happening because the relevant Tax Claim Bureau didn’t notify any of us of the sale as required by statute. After the upset sale, the purchaser sold to a third party (remember, a house the upset sale purchaser didn’t really own), who then has to get that sale confirmed by the Court. That’s when we all found out about this. We were served papers earlier this month for that second case, but the plaintiff on that second case doesn’t really own the property. The original purchaser at the upset sale didn’t meet the requirements of the statute.
I work primarily in real estate at this point. I know what these plaintiffs are. They prey on unsophisticated and financially insecure families to make a six-figure windfall. I have no sympathy towards them and will happily take the house back if it comes to that.
To give you some perspective, I’ve been told second hand that the house is on the market for $171,000, but it’s worth (depending on who you ask) anywhere between that and $253,000. Let’s assume the plaintiff can provide an appraisal that state’s the house is worth $171,000. This jackass plaintiff stands to gain at least $125,000 from the sale of this home, and I’m sure he’s done that many times prior. My share of that $171,000 is 1/12th, which comes to $14,250***. On the other hand, my cousin’s share is 1/9th, so she’s entitled to $19,000***. She’s on disability and could use the payout, so she contacted me, the only lawyer in the bunch, to see what I could do. She had already mailed her own Answer, but to be blunt, it understandably sucks, and it wouldn’t intimidate the plaintiff into a settlement.
*** Of course, to sell the house, we’d have to first come up with the $8,500 to pay the tax bill, then pay closing costs, etc., so if we did that, we’d get somewhat less than these amounts. However, I think the value of the property is much higher, so let’s ignore that.
I mailed an Answer to the Complaint on Monday, informing the court that proper procedures weren’t followed with respect to notice. However, one of my other affirmative defenses was that, even if Pennsylvania law allowed for such procedures to be ignored for some strange reason, if Pennsylvania law allows discrimination against out-of-state litigants, it violates the Privileges & Immunities Clause of the Federal Constitution, and thus must fail.
Yeah, I cited the fucking United States Constitution on a simple tax sale, and if necessary, it’s going to stick.
I don’t technically represent my cousin because I can’t. I’m not barred in Pennsylvania. However, if I get a settlement for myself, require that I be permitted to share that settlement information with my cousin, and (of course) actually share that information with my cousin, then my cousin will know what to demand ($19,000). In other words, she and I will be getting our payout. I don’t want a dime of inheritance from my family, so I’ll probably donate my settlement amount to charity. Maybe I’ll buy something worth $100 or so just for my trouble. However, I’m getting to stick it to the bad guys and help a cousin. That’s worthwhile.
The United States Constitution, bitches!
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