South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Tom Smith
South Pittsburgh Reporter Editor 

Hilltop Alliance helping residents straighten out tangled titles


Last updated 6/19/2019 at 8:49pm

A problem quickly came to the surface when staff at the Hilltop Alliance began working with area residents on getting them help to make needed repairs to their homes.

Although they may have occupied their homes for generations, they weren’t the home owner. Often, the home owner was a parent, grand-parent, aunt or uncle who had passed away.

Julia McMahon, services and operations manager for the Hilltop Alliance, explained although the home was always in the family, there was never a will to make it official. The problem became evident when they attempted to help residents through the Alliance’s Property Stabilization Program, a program for owner-occupied homes.

“We weren’t able to help them without a clear title,” she said

It was a barrier to them getting help to make repairs to their homes, often a home they had lived in for decades. It’s not a problem unique to Pittsburgh, she added.

The Alliance was able to secure grant money to begin its Tangled Title Program to help those residents living in Hilltop neighborhoods in the home of a deceased family member, but without clear title to the property. They are working with Neighborhood Legal Services on the program.

Part of the process is to contact any other living relative who may have a claim to the property, including spouses, children and siblings. Ms. McMahon said any relatives with a claim have to sign-off on the occupying relative’s claim to the property.

In addition, the applying resident must be willing to go Downtown to meet with Neighborhood Legal Services. Although there isn’t a fee for the program, there is a $150 refundable deposit that goes into an escrow account for a title search and insurance on the property. The deposit is returned if the resident completes the process.

Those who are interested in participating in the program, but don’t have the fee for the title search are encouraged to contact Ms. McMahon. “We don’t want that to be a hinderance.”

Ms. McMahon said residents can help get the process moving by being prepared with copies of any will available, the deed to the property, death certificates for the property owner and contact information for relatives.

She added that residents of the home should be making an attempt to pay the taxes on the property, but she doesn’t want back taxes owed to be the reason people don’t talk to her about the program.

“I would rather have that conversation with attorneys in the room,” she said.

There isn’t a timeline for the time it takes to clear up the title and get it into the occupant’s name. “Every case is a little different.”

Ms. McMahon encourages Hilltop residents to contact her about the program. Even if they aren’t a “perfect fit” for the Tangled Title Program, there may be other resources available for help.

The Alliance has funding for about 12 homes in the program with two already in the process.

To contact Ms. McMahon about the Tangled Title Program, call the Hilltop Alliance at 412-586-5807.


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