Columbus family gets property tax bill on a home they didn’t know they owned

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A vacant home is at the center of a swirling controversy for one south Columbus family.

For the last three years a Reinhard Avenue neighbor has mowed the yard and shoveled snow at the vacant home, trying to make it look lived in, while pestering the bank to sell the home.

The family of the deceased senior citizen who lived there thought the bank took the home back. But that was not the case and now it is in foreclosure for back taxes.

NBC4 examined county and city records into the property’s background.

Allen Carrel takes a lot of pride in Ganther’s Place, a neighborhood just south of Nationwide Children’s Hospital.  He said he’s seen both the good and bad on his block, but this vacant home has him stumped.

“We’ve had people who wanted to buy the house and it just sat here for three years, just stagnant,” said Carrel, who is one of the founders of the Ganther’s Place Civic Association.

After the former homeowner of 43 years, Gloria Wassmuth, died in 2013, her children said they called the bank holding the mortgage.

Linda Colling is Wassmuth’s daughter and executor of her estate.

“I told them we just cannot do this and we want it to go back to the bank,” she said.

Over the years Carrel said he also talked with the bank, but was told they had no record of it. All the while property taxes were not being paid to the tune of $3,181.99. The Franklin County Treasurer said in December the parcel was put on a tax foreclosure list.

It got worse for the family as thieves hit the vacant home.

“The city of Columbus came out and boarded this up after they broke into it, thieves took some plumbing and the air conditioner unit,” said Carrel.

Looking through public records at the county auditor, treasurer and city code enforcement offices, and talking with the family of Wassmuth, NBC4 found the bank forgave the mortgage, but never took possession of the home. The house belonged to the the estate of the deceased woman all along.

“That is the worst part. We never heard a word from any of them. No! If it hadn’t been for you guys calling us, we would still be in the dark,” said Colling’s husband Joe to NBC4’s Rick Reitzel.

The city attorney’s office says there is a possible bright spot though, because NBC4 alerted the family, officials said they still might have time to pay the taxes and sell the home before the foreclosure sale.

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