SANTA FE (KRQE) - Thanks to a mistake by her mortgage company, Cynthia Hale has been paying her neighbor's property taxes for a year and a half.
But after KRQE News 13 began inquiring about the situation, the mortgage company sent Hale a refund check for more than $4,500.
"It's been awful," she said. "A huge runaround – everybody blaming each other."
Hale paid $3,000 in property taxes last year and at least $1,100 in property taxes this year so far. However, Hale shouldn't be paying property taxes at all and, in fact, hasn't paid them in the six years she's lived in her Santa Fe County home.
That's because she's a disabled veteran who is exempt from property taxes with a state certified tax waiver to prove it.
"I kept paying it because I believed I had an escrow shortage," said Hale, a 28-year-old single mother.
She's had to take handouts from family and has sold household items online, as well as taking on odd jobs. But, as it turns out, Hale was actually paying her neighbor's property taxes, though the two neighbors don't even have the same mortgage company.
Santa Fe County Treasurer Victor Montoya said his office allows banks and mortgage companies access to taxpayer information.
"It's public information, so this is a convenience to a certain extent for the mortgage companies and taxpaying services," Montoya said.
The bottom line is that GMAC mixed up the tax bills, according to Hale and Montoya. Montoya said the situation is not uncommon.
Hale, who had to endure weeks of the runaround from GMAC, fully blames the company.
"I think GMAC should have caught it once they received it, knowing for the past six years I've been tax-exempt," she said.
GMAC Mortgage said it couldn't comment on people's accounts.
However, a couple days after News 13 called GMAC to ask about Hale's bill, the company sent her a check for $4,570.98. Hale said she's relieved, though the company still maintains she owes them late fees for missing mortgage payments that went to her escrow account.
To top it all off, GMAC Mortgage recently filed for bankruptcy. Hale said she hopes to recoup some of those late fees before it goes belly up.
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