KCTV5 Investigates: Unforgiven lien stalls home sale
Posted by Chris Oberholtz, Multimedia Producer - email
KANSAS CITY, KS (KCTV) -
A $9,000 lien that should have been forgiven more than three years ago instead remains on a KCK home, preventing the elderly owner from selling the place.
When Maeretha Hadley bought the small, tan home on Freeman Avenue nine years ago, she never expected to move again.
The for-sale sign in her the front yard indicates the change in plans brought on by Hadley's worsening health problems.
"I've been ill ever since I've been here," Hadley said. "I have a heart condition."
Hadley decided she needs to live closer to her Chicago-area family right now. She did feel fortunate - quickly finding a buyer willing to pay cash for her place.
"The 15th of June. That's when we were supposed to close," Hadley said.
More than a month later, that sale is still on hold, delayed when a title company found a $9,000 lien against her home.
The discovery came as a complete surprise to Hadley.
According to her paperwork, that lien should have disappeared from her property records more than three years ago.
"You had no idea until you go to close, and you've found a buyer that this lien still exists?" KCTV5 investigative reporter Stacey Cameron questioned Hadley.
"No I didn't," she said.
The $9,000 in question was granted to Hadley by a non-profit group called the Wyandotte Economic and Community Development Corporation (WECDC). The money covered Hadley's down payment.
Gordon Criswell, director of human services for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County, said WECDC obtained funding from the unified government to help low- and middle-income residents buy affordable homes.
"They primarily worked in the Northeast part of the county," Criswell said.
When some residents balked at the locations of the WECDC neighborhoods, including Hadley's, the group sweetened the deal with some down payment help.
According to Hadley's paperwork, once she lived in her home for five years, the grant money would be forgiven, and she would never have to pay it back.
"That's what my note said, my promissory note," Hadley said.
Hadley's five years were up in January 2010.
Unbeknownst to her, WECDC had gone under the previous year.
According to Kansas legal aid attorney Leland Cox, the non-profit corporation went out of business before taking care of some important legal paperwork.
"It kind of left a lot of loose ends hanging and Ms. Hadley was one of them," Cox said.
Cox is now working to remove the lien from Hadley's home so she can close the sale, but cautions the process is going to take some time.
"Rough guesstimate would be 45 days to three months and clearly it's not in her best interest to have to wait that long," Cox said.
Before Cox, Hadley spent two months trying to solve the lien issue, making repeated calls to the Unified Government about WECDC.
"When I called nobody seemed to know anything about it," Hadley said.
Fearful that she would never be able to clear up her mess and that other residents might be facing a similar issue, Hadley reached out to KCTV5.
Cameron started combing through Wyandotte County property records and confirmed Hadley's concerns. He informed Criswell of the three other outstanding WECDC liens he had discovered.
"We didn't have any reason to go back and audit this agency that is no longer in existence so thanks to you all we are now aware of this and that's a good thing," Criswell told Cameron.
As a result of that finding, Criswell said the unified government is now working to notify several property owners of the possibility of a bad lien against their homes.
Criswell said they are also working to remove Hadley's lien.
"We feel bad that this lady is having this problem," Criswell said.
But that attempt may be too little too late. With the lien still in place, Hadley failed to meet a second closing date Friday after noon.
"If you can't get this fixed and the lien cleared what will you do?" Cameron asked Hadley.
"I'll stay here," Hadley replied.
"But you won't be close to family?" Cameron asked.
"No, I won't," she said.
According to Criswell, the unified government's legal team is urging WECDC to reconstitute its board of directors for one last meeting to release all the bad liens.
If they refuse, Cox said he will sue to quiet the title to Hadley's home so she can finally settle the matter and move on.
It could take between three and six months for that to happen.
Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
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