Reno Woman Nearly Loses Home Over Unpaid $10 Bill

Reported by: Joe Hart
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Updated: 7/22/2013 6:11 pm
Margarita Bryant teaches concert piano from her home on Lakeside Drive. But Margarita's life and livelihood hit a sour note when she found she was on the verge of losing her home. 

All over a bill from the city of Reno in January of this year for $10.17 that she admits she overlooked.

"They just told me no, i'ts not a mistake. We're going to put your house into foreclosure," Bryant told us.

That bill was part of a larger assessment for recent improvements on Lakeside Drive.   Margarita says she was out of town when the original bill came to her house.    And she says she mistook several reminders sent out by the city's collection agency as junk mail since the city's logo was nowhere to be seen on any of them.
    The next thing she knew the city had tacked on $545.23 in late charges and foreclosure fees for a total of  $ 555.40.     Margarita says she couldn't afford that.

"I don't know how the financial department can do this to citizens," Bryant said. 

And Margarita is not alone. We found more than 20 properties the city was planning to  put up for sale this week because of unpaid assessments,   including a house on Lahontan Way that belongs to the University of Nevada School of Medicine. 
  We called the university and they told us they too overlooked the bill.  Luckily for them, they were able to pay it in time and avoid losing the home.

So is the city cracking too hard on these unpaid bills ?  We asked financial director Robert Chisel.

Chisel admits it is disturbing to have a $10 assessment lead to foreclosure.  He says they do try to work with homeowners but he says if some people don't pay it means others in the assessment district will wind up paying more to cover the costs.  So the city can only budge so much.   And after six months it's foreclosure. 

"It's absolutely non-sense,"  Bryant said, shaking her head in disgust.

But the bottom line according to finance director Chisel:  "Everyone has to pay their bills."

After we interviewed Chisel, the city of Reno did agree to take off some of the late fees and Margarita wound up paying $486 to keep the city from selling her house.
  So it was a close call.  But as we've seen, ignoring those bills, even the small ones, can wind up costing you more than you ever imagined.

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9 Comment(s)
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Here are the most recent story comments.View All

valleymike - 8/5/2013 2:50 PM
0 Votes
Liens with a modest uncomfortable interest rate & penalty is in order. The debt is secured by the real property and the City will get paid as well as handsome interest return when the home is sold or transferred. $546 for a $10 bill is not a modest return, its not laon sharking, it is larceny. And to add foreclosure on top of that ridiculious. The City of Sparks transfers its sewer liens to the County for collection on the next year's tax bill (with the interest & penalties). Why doesn't the City do the same thing? Oh I forgot, its the Kingdom of Reno.

Billinhell - 7/28/2013 7:21 PM
0 Votes
And this city can't figure out why their are so many homeless and it keeps growing. Reno needs a way to pay the 30 million for the Aces ball park so why not sell private property over 10 dollars.

Kramer - 7/24/2013 4:01 PM
0 Votes
this is why Bonnie & Clyde robbed banks. robbin' the 'hood, Reno is.

Kramer - 7/24/2013 4:00 PM
0 Votes
the finance guy is a Chisel, the city manager is a Klinger. the Mayor is Cashsmell; and we all know about Keystone cops. these are your Czars, people!

luckydog - 7/23/2013 9:53 PM
0 Votes
If she would have just paid the 10.00, it would have never come to this. Sorry, can't feel bad for her.

Tahoe Guy - 7/23/2013 5:08 PM
2 Votes
I can't believe Reno financial director Robert Chisel is so callous. He should be fired immediately for his actions and inability to comprehend the foolishness of his policy. Even the IRS is prohibited from taking a personal residence unless the amount owed exceeds $5,000. I'm disapointed at the attitude of some of my fellow commenters. The underlying belief of some of them is that the City of Reno is justified in ANY action, no matter how brutal or unhumane, to punish a citizen and property owner for failing to promptly pay a $10 assessment. How about a fine or penalty that has some rational relationship to the amount owed? A few hours of staff time plus postage perhaps? Wouldnt that be a more reasonable solution? The policy that allows Reno properties to be siezed and sold for a negligible assessment should be worrisome to all property owners and should be scrapped. Do you really own your property if it can be siezed by the government so easily? Isn't property that is subject to such easy confiscation worth less in the marketplace, other things being equal, than property that isn't burdened that way? Reno voters and property owners should demand a more humane policy from their government.

Nevadadad - 7/23/2013 1:16 PM
0 Votes
Sparks Guy is contradicting himself. He "should" be willing to defend his property, but loses that edge when he's wrong. If he doesn't open his mail, there are probably a few bills that he hasn't paid. If he didn't take responsibility for his debts, he's going to be on the losing end of the confrontation. Have you ever known anyone who physically defended their property, whether they were right or not, and weren't either incarcerated or killed? Don't be stupid... Open your mail and pay your bills, and just throw the junk stuff away.

Sparks Guy - 7/22/2013 7:59 PM
2 Votes
People like Sparks Gal are the problem. I loathe humanity and I isolate myself from the rest of you lot quite on purpose. If you come knocking at the gate, I do not answer. If my phone rings, I do not know because I keep it on silent. If you send me mail, I retrieve only the pieces that look important and the rest sit there in the box and are eventually returned to sender. I pay my bills if they are presented as bills in an upfront manner, but deception will not be rewarded. I don't use credit, and I don't care about my credit rating. If you're honest, direct, and I know that I owe you what you say I owe, then I will pay. Otherwise, you won't get a dime. I defend my property in a manner consistent with the Second Amendment, the Third Amendment (sorry, soldiers!), and the Fourth Amendment. Especially from LEOs. Nobody has ever given me static. Not once. The City of Sparks is just trying to take advantage of the elderly, the disabled, and the simple. I'd say "Shame on you", except that I don't care enough to even finish typing this comm

Sparks Gal - 7/22/2013 6:30 PM
0 Votes
This story reflects a not-too-infrequent plea by some homeowners who happen to live in common-interest communities throughout the USA. An allied claim offered by some go like this "The letter was addressed to my husband and he died last year, so I never open his mail." That was how an elderly widow in another state tried to claim "What, me?" when her home was about to be foreclosed. Just because the City of Reno did not show on the envelope, how could she assume it was "junk mail"? It's a convenient excuse. Here is the lesson: when you get a "certified mail" envelope with a green label on the front, take a few seconds and OPEN it. I am tired of folks who cry foul when they should take responsibility for their own inactions! I'm sorry, Joe, but her own stupidity should not be rewarded!
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