CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Imagine you paid your property taxes on time, in full, only to have the county turn around and sell what it says are delinquent taxes.
Think it couldn’t happen to you?
“I don’t trust a word they say,” said Anita Pilarski. “Each time they say, ‘don’t worry about it,’ I say, ‘what are they gonna do now?'”
Four properties in Champaign Co. were impacted by what’s known as an “administrative sale in error,” Pilarski’s included.
She turned to Target 3 for help.
This ordeal began on June 21, 2019.
“I was at the bank in Rantoul, the Busey Bank in Rantoul, and I was paying the property tax on my house and my daughter’s house in Thomasboro,” explained Richard Friemel, Pilarski’s dad.
He has paid his and his daughter’s property taxes in this manner for nearly a decade.
“I pay my dad my mortgage payment and he pays my taxes out of that every month like an escrow account,” explained Pilarski. “When the bill comes, I give him the bill and he goes up and he pays it and life goes on and we’re happy.”
But not last year.
“In October we got a late notice in the mail stating that we had not paid our property taxes and that we had until the end of October to pay them before late fees would begin accumulating,” Pilarski said.
Friemel went to the Champaign Co. Treasurer’s Office and brought his proof of payment.
“They told me, ‘don’t worry about it; it’ll be taken care of,'” said Friemel.
But it wasn’t.
“About three weeks later, we got the second notice saying that they were still not paid and if they were still not paid by Dec. 5, they were gonna sell our house for taxes on Dec. 6,” said Pilarski.
Friemel made the trek back to the treasurer and spoke with Champaign Co. Acting Chief Deputy Treasurer C. Pius Weibel.
“I talked to him and I looked at it and said, ‘yes, this should’ve been posted a long time ago,'” Weibel explained. “It was a mistake in our office. Unfortunately, it was right before the tax sale, lots of things I was trying to get done. I failed to post his taxes. I still feel badly about that.”
This was nearly six months after the taxes had been paid.
“I could have easily posted their taxes,” explained Weibel. “It was my fault. Although, it was somebody else’s fault before that, before I took the job.”
“Monday, this would be [Dec.] 9th,” Pilarski said. “I got online and the website said that it was sold for delinquent taxes.”
That meant another trip to the treasurer’s office.
“This guy says, ‘it’s gonna go to court; it’s gonna take a while; don’t worry about it; we’re gonna get it done; it won’t cost you any money,'” Friemel explained.
By this time, Christmas and New Year’s Day had come and gone.
“On January 5, I got a letter saying they had filed the sale,” said Pilarski. “The sale was now done that they sold it to Bass Master Tax Investments. I lost it. I went really upset, talked to my parents.”
Champaign Co. Recorder Mark Sheldon told WCIA it should’ve never made it to a tax sale, but once it did, it should’ve been resolved in a matter of days.
“The county understands that they made an error, verifies that they did make an error,” Sheldon said. “Then they just mail a letter to the person that bought the taxes, asks them to surrender what’s called the tax certificate. That tax buyer is going to get their money back that they paid for the tax certificate, as well as the interest payment, so that the tax buyer is made whole. The county will lose some money.”
Sheldon says as soon as Friemel and Pilarski raised the issue, Treasurer Laurel Prussing or Weibel should’ve gotten involved and had the issue resolved.
“This is definitely all the county,” said Sheldon. “The taxpayer – the homeowner – did everything they were supposed to do here and the county let them down.”
Weibel told WCIA the treasurer’s office will be in touch with Friemel — not Pilarski — to confirm the situation is being resolved.
He says a letter is being sent, in the case of Pilarski’s tax sale, to Bass Master Tax Investments, LLC. asking it to surrender the tax certificate.
It’s unclear how much Champaign Co. will have to pay to settle with the four tax buyers.