LAWRENCE, MASS. (WHDH) - Francisca Leger left the Dominican Republic and moved to Massachusetts looking for a better life 17 years ago.
“I really wanted to have a home,” says Leger.
She worked several jobs and eventually saved enough to buy this house in Lawrence, in 2012.
“I was safe. I had a home. I felt good. I felt calm, happy. But now I feel restless,” says Leger.
Restless because the 71-year-old is in danger of losing her home.
“I feel uneasy,” says Leger.
“It’s a tough situation,” says Brian Corrigan, her attorney. “As I learned more about the case, I just couldn’t believe what had happened.”
Corrigan says when Leger bought the house nine years ago, no one told her the previous owner owed $3,000 in taxes.
He says if the attorney for the bank would have done a title search, as required by law, the tax issue would have come up.
But a municipal lien certificate was never ordered, according to Corrigan and a Land Court judge.
Since the taxes were never paid, a lien was filed against Legers’ house, something she says she never knew.
Then a finance company bought the outstanding lien.
The company claims it sent a letter to Leger’s house, but it was addressed to the old homeowner, so she never got it.
Because the company never heard from Leger, they filed for foreclosure. And in 2016, a land court judge officially gave them her house.
One year later, Leger says she received the first sign something was wrong. It was a letter from the company saying they now owned her home.
“Where would I go, to the streets?” says Leger.
Corrigan says Leger has offered to pay the company the back taxes.
But he says they want her to pay them the homes’ current market value, which’s more than $400,000.
“We’ve offered significant sums of money, into the 6 figures,” says Corrigan.
Corrigan filed an appeal with the land court and won, because Leger wasn’t given the legally required amount of time to fight the foreclosure.
“The judge in the land court described it as a willful and purposeful scheme to lay low until Ms. Legers’ rights had expired,” says Corrigan.
But the company appealed that ruling and won.
The finance company wouldn’t talk to us about the case.
But in court documents, it maintains Legers’ “Due process rights were satisfied.”
Now Corrigan has asked the state’s Supreme Judicial Court to get involved.
“Over a $3,000 tax bill, Leger is going to lose her family home,” says Corrigan. “Do you deserve to lose your home over a relatively small tax lien, particularly one left by a previous owner? I don’t think so.”
“I know that God is going to be on the side of the truth,” says Leger.
State Senator Barry Finegold of Lawrence is trying to help Leger.
“Now understand these taxes weren’t even her own. She’s never missed a mortgage payment, she’s never a payment to her local taxes,” says Senator Finegold.
He’s asking the State Attorney General to get involved.
He’s also looking into whether the Legislature can change parts of the law that allows for-profit companies to buy tax liens from municipalities.
“It was never intended to take over someone who has been paying their mortgage, whose been paying their taxes and who’s a law-abiding citizen,” says Senator Finegold.
He says in his opinion, Ms. Leger was not given the proper notification the law calls for.
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