Chaumont woman fights to keep home in bizarre property dispute

Published: Jul. 27, 2021 at 2:04 PM EDT
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CHAUMONT, New York (WWNY) - A Chaumont woman is bidding for the chance to keep her home - one she’s lived in for 10 years. The only problem is she has never owned the land beneath it.

Lottie Heyl has lived in her home since 2010. She says she struck a deal with a village man and his dad to sell her the land and build her a new home. But she says they left her a shell, forcing her to dip into her own pocket to finish it.

“And I told the lawyer then, I said I want to sue him, this is ridiculous,” said Heyl.

She was staying in a summer rental during construction. Once she did move in, the owner never turned over the deed to the house.

“I don’t understand why he would not just call me and turn the house over to me,” said Heyl.

That has created a messy situation with taxes. Because her name isn’t on the property, Heyl has never paid taxes, though she has wanted to and is willing to.

County records show that taxes were paid until March of 2018, then stopped. Because of that, county officials say there are now $45,000 in unpaid taxes.

Now, the property is up for a tax auction, which would eventually give the highest bidder ownership of the land. Heyl put in a bid for $45,000 but has already been outbid.

“By all means, it’s my house other than that darn paperwork that they skipped out on,” said Heyl.

Village records show the owner of the land is Justin Cormier. Heyl says Justin’s father, Rich, built the house. But Heyl hasn’t had any contact with them since 2010.

We reached out to the Cormiers, both of whom are living in Michigan now, for more information. Both said they had no knowledge of the whole thing. Lawyers haven’t been able to help Heyl either.

“I have been to, all together, four different lawyers. One lawyer just looked at me and says, ‘Well, I think I’d find a place to live before they foreclose,’” she said.

In his 15 years as Jefferson County Attorney, David Paulsen says he’s never heard a story quite like this.

“This does seem a bit unique,” he said.

He says it’s an unfortunate situation for Heyl, who now has to look for a new place to call home.

“My son just - he’s sick to his stomach, he cries. My grandson cries and cries. I’ve done a lot of that myself,” said Heyl.

Jefferson County is in control of the property now. The director of the county’s tax services tells 7 News that Heyl could pay the taxes, but she still wouldn’t own the property.

Heyl says she was told by someone at the District Attorney’s Office it was too late to pay back what was already owed.

The land is set to be auctioned off through Brzostek’s, an online auction service on Wednesday. What happens next all depends on what the new buyer wants. But Paulsen says it could take up to 30 days to close on the sale.

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