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.