AUSTIN (CN) - An ill, elderly Texas woman claims in court that she's being thrown out the home she's lived in for 47 years because of $49 in property taxes -- which she paid early.
Aron Ezilla Ridge, 75, sued James B. Nutter & Co. in Travis County Court.
She claims Nutter is foreclosing on her home for allegedly unpaid taxes - taxes she says it paid on her behalf already.
Ridge is partly blind, has diabetes, congestive heart failure and had surgery for colon cancer several years ago.
"She needs a wheelchair to leave her home and is largely housebound at this point in her life," the complaint states. "She can read but her reading level is approximately at the 6th grade level and her ability to read is, of course, further limited by her failing eyesight."
Ridge says she paid off the mortgage for her 900-square-foot home about 20 years ago. But in 2007 it needed major roof, kitchen and bathroom repairs. In February that year, she says, she signed up for a reverse mortgage with Nutter, which provided her with $39,000 for the repairs.
Ridge says she was told by the Travis County Tax Assessor's office in 2000 that she did not need to pay property taxes because the value of her home was below homestead and senior exemption caps.
But she received a property tax bill in 2011 for $20.31. She says she was able to drive to the assessor's office and pay the taxes in full and on time.
In April 2012, the assessor's office informed her that her home was valued at $60,743 and that her taxes were estimated at $46.87, according to the complaint.
Ridge says she did not receive a tax bill, but later received a receipt stating that $49 in taxes were paid in late 2012.
"She assumed that the receipt meant she was again exempt from property taxes," the complaint states. "She did not call the tax office to see why she had received a receipt without having received a bill."
In January this year, Nutter's attorneys told Ridge her reverse mortgage had been accelerated, and that she had to pay off the entire loan "or the lender would exercise its right to enforce the lien on her home. Ms. Ridge does not remember receiving this letter," the complaint states. (Citation to exhibit omitted.)
Ridge says her home was foreclosed on on Jan. 30, and she received notice on Feb. 6.
"The application [for foreclosure] stated that Ms. Ridge was in default 'for failure to pay property taxes,'" the complaint states. "The only property to which the application could possibly refer were the taxes for 2012 - which were not due until January 31, 2013. Yet defendant intended to enforce its right to foreclose on Ms. Ridge's home because she had not paid $49.00, which at the time the application was filed, was not due yet."
Ridge says that when she was served, she tried to pay the taxes again with the assessor's office, which told her it could not accept payment because the taxes had been paid by the defendant before they were due.
Ridge says she is unable to pay the accelerated reverse mortgage, that she lives on $641 in monthly disability payments and has no other source of income.
She says Nutter is demanding more than $66,700, plus attorneys' fees - double the amount she was paid in 2007 and more than the appraised value of her home in 2012.
Ridge seeks actual and punitive damages, an injunction and declaratory relief for wrongful foreclosure, breach of contract, negligence, real estate fraud, unjust enrichment, attempted conversion and violations of the Unfair Debt Collection Act and Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
She is represented by Nanneska Hazel with George Brothers in Austin.