SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Capri Ramos has been making payments on her home for more than 10 years, but it turns out she doesn't own it. It was sold in 1996 -- after she failed to pay a $68 dental bill.
"I was young, brand-new married and kids, just bought a house and wasn't really aware of everything going on," said Ramos, 41.
A collection agency, North American Recovery, sued Ramos in 1995 over the dental bill. She did not contest the lawsuit, never realizing the possible consequences.
The Salt Lake County sheriff's office was ordered to sell Ramos' real estate to pay off the debt, which had reached $958 with interest and fees. The house in the Glendale neighborhood was sold at auction for $1,550.
The home was transferred to Jarmaccc Properties LLC. Court records indicate Ramos was served with notices of the sale, but she claims she knew nothing until 1998 when she tried to get a loan and was told she didn't own the home. "I was shocked," Ramos said.
She bought the house in 1994, thanks to a city loan program for people with certain incomes. Salt Lake City is scratching its head, too, over the transfer of legal title.
Marion Barnhill, who oversees the program, said the city gets ownership if a borrower tries to sell, rent or transfer the house for 15 years.
In 2004, Ramos sued Jarmaccc, claiming she should have recovered legal ownership through a bankruptcy filing, among other issues. She won the case but subsequently lost when the state appeals court said the lawsuit was filed too late.
Ramos' attorney, James Haskins, said she will seek help from the Utah Supreme Court. The city, meanwhile, will watch from the sidelines until the legal moves are exhausted.
Ramos said her mortgage with the city will be paid off next year. She lives there with her second husband and two children, ages 3 and 10. "I've always had vehicles," Ramos said. "I've always had a job. They could have garnished my wages."
Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)