Sylvia’s Story

Sylvia found herself living in a homeless shelter for the first time at the age of 79. Her Baltimore County home had been sold at a tax sale and then foreclosed on, leaving her with nowhere to call home. A social worker at the shelter helped Sylvia get in touch with St. Ambrose because Sylvia thought that the house sold for more than what she owed in taxes. A St. Ambrose attorney looked into the matter and discovered that Sylvia was owed a $46,000 surplus.

Under Baltimore County policy, homeowners that lose their home to tax sale have to file a motion in the Circuit Court to claim any surplus. This is simple for lawyers to do, but can be prohibitively complicated for people without legal experience. Sylvia’s attorney filed a motion to disburse her surplus, which she eventually received.

Had Sylvia automatically received her surplus, she likely would not have ended up in a homeless shelter. She could have used the $46,000 to transition homes in a dignified manner. Rather, she had to live in a shelter while going through the time-consuming process of finding and retaining counsel and then wait on a motion to process through the court.

While Sylvia’s case eventually resolved in her favor, she faced undue hurdles that many do not overcome. Without free legal services, she likely never would have received the money that she was owed. Sylvia no longer had to worry about her housing and health as she ages, giving her peace of mind knowing she would be taken care of.

As always, if you are have any questions regarding housing law, please call the Legal Services Department at St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center at 410-366-8550, extension 209.

*Name has been changed to protect the identity of St. Ambrose clients.

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