Deal to return couple's home to them still a possibility

July 09, 2006|BY A SUN REPORTER

A man who backed out of a settlement that would have returned ownership of a home to a retired elderly Columbia couple is seeking a three-week extension in court proceedings, creating the prospect that a deal still may be possible.

The extension is needed to retain a new attorney, Vijay K. Manjani, director of the Department of Finance in the Prince George's County community of Mount Rainier, said in a filing with Circuit Court.

That move leaves in limbo Arthur S. Rochee Sr. and his wife, Doris, as they fight to retain the home in which they have lived for 40 years.

The couple, both 75, lost the deed to their home and have faced eviction since February when Manjani successfully bid for their home at auction. The auction was held after Doris Rochee failed to pay county property tax of $2,372.03 for 2002, and then ignored notices that a tax lien had been placed on the property.

Her actions were kept secret from the family and were provoked by severe depression over the death of a 23-year-old son. She had stored the tax bill and the various notices in a closet, never informing her husband of her actions. She has been under the care of a psychiatrist since Feb. 21.

The auction was held Feb. 22, and Manjani bid $291,000. The home is valued at up to $400,00, according to William E. Erskine, an attorney with the firm Reese & Carney LLC, and who is representing the Rochees.

Benjamin F. Dennis III, an attorney who until recently was representing Manjani, informed Erskine in an e-mail May 1 that his client had accepted the settlement promising that Manjani would be reimbursed $20,000 for the deposit he paid when he successfully bid for the home at auction, $2,500 for "unspecified expenses including interest on the deposited funds" and $500 for legal fees.

The settlement papers were scheduled to be signed about a week ago, but Manjani backed out of the deal.

Manjani could not be reached for comment.

The collapse of the deal had forced cancellation of a court hearing at which it had been expected that an earlier judgment against the Rochees would be rescinded, which would have saved the couple thousands of dollars in property taxes.

Erskine said he still plans to file a lawsuit to force execution of the settlement.

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