Man battling the county over taxes on a demolished home: 'It's my money too'

March 26, 2019 07:23 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) -- Monroe County's budget is $1.2 billion a year but right now, the county is battling a local man over a $1,659.57 judgment. 

This started last year when News10NBC exposed how Monroe County and the City of Rochester were auctioning properties that included homes the city was going to demolish.

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Some buyers lost their investment. Now, the county is fighting a court order that says one of those buyers should get his money back. 

In the fall of 2017, Will Turner paid the outstanding county taxes on a rundown house on Watkin Terrace in the city. He had dreams of fixing it up. 

What Turner didn't know is that when he bought it at the county tax auction in September of 2017, it was already marked to be torn down.

On Tuesday, Turner returned to the property where the house used to be. The city foreclosed on the property and tore it down. 

"Well I really wish I had had the chance to rehab the house," Turner said. 

Turner was just one of the buyers we showed to you who bought a property at the county and city tax auctions, only to have the house torn down.

Turner lost a small claim case. But then he took the county to trial at Rochester City Court and he won. 

A ruling on March 1 by City Court Judge John Elliott said the county should repay the back taxes Will Turner paid at the auction. 

The total? $1,659.57. 

"However, when I called the county attorney to arrange to receive payment he informed me that the county intends to appeal the judge's ruling," Turner said. 

That's right. 

The county does not want to pay the court ordered judgment.

But why? 

First, as we have reported all along, it was Turner's responsibility to know the status of the house he was buying. He did not know the house was marked for demolition. He did not check the city's demolition list. 

And in a statement, the county executive's spokesman wrote this: 

"Notwithstanding the amount of the damages in question, decisions made in a court of law can set precedent for future claims made against the county. It is in the taxpayers' best interest that the county contest any claims that would set a poor precedent for future cases, which could involve much larger amounts."

"To defend against a judgment of such a small amount," Turner said. "It gets me angry that, as a taxpayer, it's part of my money too. I'm paying for this and it seems like it's nonsense." 

News10NBC is going to track what happens here. 

We can tell you that as a result of our stories on this, the city and county changed the way they auction demolition homes.

The properties with demolition homes are more clearly marked on the auction list. In the city, the auctioneer repeats a warning that the property up for auction includes a home the city is going to tear down. 


Berkeley Brean

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