SCOTUS rules for woman, 94, in fight over Minneapolis condo
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday in favor of a 94-year-old woman who didn’t receive a single dime after her Minneapolis condominium was seized by authorities and sold over a small unpaid tax bill.
In a unanimous decision, the nine justices ruled that the constitutional rights of Geraldine Tyler were violated after Hennepin County in eastern Minnesota sold her one-bedroom unit for $40,000 in 2016.
Tyler, who now lives in an apartment building for older people, stopped paying property taxes on her condominium, where she had lived since 1999. By 2015, she owed $2,300 in unpaid back taxes, as well as approximately $12,300 in interest, penalties and other costs.
To collect Tyler’s $15,000 debt, the county foreclosed on her property. However, after her condo sold for $40,000, she didn’t receive what remained from the sale. Her lawyers argued the county should’ve given her $25,000.
“The County had the power to sell Tyler’s home to recover the unpaid property taxes,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court. “But it could not use the toehold of the tax debt to confiscate more property than was due.”
“The taxpayer must render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, but no more,” Roberts noted in the 20-page opinion.
Christina Martin, an attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation, a California-based legal nonprofit that represented Tyler, celebrated the 9-0 decision as a “major victory for property rights in the United States.”
The ruling “makes clear that home equity theft is not only unjust, but unconstitutional,” added Martin, who argued the case before the court.
Minnesota is among 11 states, plus the District of Columbia, that allow local governments to keep the excess money from similar cases.
Between 2014 and 2021, nearly 9,000 homes were sold in those states because of unpaid taxes, with the properties’ former owners receiving little or nothing from local jurisdictions, according to Pacific Legal.
With News Wire Services