Debilitating illnesses and mounting tax issues have a former New Britain Volunteer –of-the-Year facing foreclosure of the home on Brittany Farms Road. The case serves as another example of how a saggy economy is affecting Hardware City residents. It also shows how options to resolve tax delinquencies become limited over time.
Roxanne Amaio owes the City of New Britain more than $20,000 in taxes, fees and interest on her home. The long-time New Britain resident claims the beginning of her tax issues occurred several years ago when a Florida-based mortgage company applied payments she made towards the loan principal rather than to her city tax bill.
“I tried everything to work out the matter with them, but was stonewalled,” said Ms. Amaio. “Every time there was an error I kept on it until it was resolved, but I didn’t realize the taxes hadn’t been taken care of.”
Finally, after she retained an attorney the mortgage company determined that her loan had been paid in full.
Amaio had originally taken out a mortgage with the former American Savings Bank, but she said that when the bank went public the loan was sold several times ending up with Ocwen Financial headquartered in Florida. She received $56 as a result of a class action suit filed against the mortgage company, a sum that doesn’t go anywhere towards resolving her current tax issues
Two years ago, Amaio who now suffers from Parkinson’s disease, moved to Maine for about 18 months to nurse her ailing mother who subsequently died. Apparently, the city did not receive tax payments during this period as well.
Late in 2012 she attempted to resolve the matter starting with the Corporation Counsel, then the City Attorney, Mayor Tim O’Brien and his assistant Phil Sherwood. According to Amaio, the mayor’s aide said there was nothing they could do.
“This type of situation is all too common not only in New Britain, but in towns and cities across the nation,” said Sherwood. “I am familiar with the case, but am limited in terms of what I can say because of privacy issues.”
Sherwood indicated that “there has been no change” in the manner in which the City pursues delinquent taxes. He also that after becoming aware of this particular case he referred the matter to the City Attorney’s office.
“There has been a great deal of time spent on trying to come up with a creative way to resolve this situation, unfortunately cities are limited in what they can do,” said Sherwood referring to state laws which largely guide methods municipalities follow in pursing back taxes.
Despite retaining Attorney Rich Croce of Middletown, Amaio finds herself facing foreclosure or the possibility of filing bankruptcy in order to retain her home.
Since she is on disability, Amaio says she cannot qualify for refinancing. She has recently become eligible to access IRA funds without penalties and is willing to do so to address the back taxes. However, she says that she cannot currently meet the city’s demand for monthly payments in the amount of $1,950, but could in about two years when she will be eligible for a reverse mortgage.
“This makes no sense,” said Amaio. “The property is paid off, but I can’t afford monthly (back tax) payments of $1,950 they are demanding. I’m willing to access my retirement account to pay current taxes. In a couple of more years I can get a reverse mortgage and take care of the back taxes. They just seem overly aggressive in pursuing this matter in this way.”
Amaio claims to have tried to sell this home and another property she owns earlier this year, but “had no bites.” She has had some repairs done and is expecting to be able to rent the other unit in the near future.
“I’m willing to make reasonable payments, but after paying taxes and making mortgage payments for years this all seem very unfair,” said Amaio who has made several payments to show her “good faith” to settle the matter.
According to several estimates there are more than 400 properties in foreclosure in New Britain. Were the City to foreclose and attempt to resell the Brittany Farms unit it is unlikely they would garner anything near market value. In fact, foreclosure sales further erode property values which are determined by all types of sales – including foreclosures.
“Why wouldn’t the City let me continue to make payments on the current taxes? Then I could pay off the entire debt when I’m eligible for a reverse mortgage,” Amaio stated. “The City would be earning 18 percent in the meantime,” she added.
“As far as I can tell there is nothing in the city charter that sets specific amounts of payments or period,” said Ms. Amaio. “They just don’t seem to be interested in working with me at all,” she added.
“If there is a lesson to be learned here, it’s that if taxpayers are having a problem they should not let things go this far before trying to do something about it,” Sherwood added.