CEDAR LAKE | A 67-year-old blind woman who lost ownership of her home through a Lake County tax sale said she can remain temporarily, if she pays $300 a month in rent.
Lake Superior Court Judge Gerald Svetanoff didn't evict Dolores Pittman as requested by an attorney for Clayton Pullins, who won the property in a delinquent tax auction three years ago for $43.
Instead, Pittman can continue living in the small house that has been her home for decades awaiting the result of litigation she hopes will nullify Pullins' ownership on grounds local government officials are to blame for her dilemma.
"I can stay here until the other case is decided upon, but I have to come up with $300 by Sunday. I'm still in limbo, but it could have been worse," Pittman said.
Lawyers for Pittman and Pullins didn't return calls seeking comment.
Pittman recalls as a child moving with her family into the house on 138th Avenue (Constitution Avenue) just before Christmas 1958. She has lived there since losing her eyesight because of an infection at age 38.
The family bought the house years ago and faithfully paid the taxes due on the house and rent to a church group that owned the ground beneath the house. The house was built on a summer resort the church group operated by the lake.
However, Lake County officials say the Pittman family never properly recorded the house's sale, so when the church group sold most of its holdings to Cedar Lake in the 1970s, the parcel under the Pittman house fell into a legal no man's land.
Pittman believes the town owned the land and paid rent for several years to the town clerk. The town now contends it never owned the Pittman parcel and recently returned the money she paid. The question is now in litigation in a separate court.
County records indicate no one paid taxes on the land under the house, so it was routinely placed in an auction and sold in 2009.
Pullins asked the judge to remove Pittman, who he claims has been living rent-free for months on his property.
Pittman said she appeared before Judge Svetanoff on Wednesday on the eviction notice.
"I started crying when the judge asked if I had the deed because we were going to have to do the eviction. Then he recessed."
Pittman offered to pay rent, and Svetanoff agreed to delay a final decision on her removal until litigation in the other court over Pittman's claims is resolved.