Woman finally owns deed after paying land taxes for decades

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ByTed Oberg via KTRK logo
Wednesday, August 7, 2019
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She still has the papers to prove that her family made payments on the lot for years and paid taxes for decades.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- We first met Mittie Stewart in 2016, but her story started long before that.

It all begins when Stewart told 13 Investigates' Ted Oberg about the time her father purchased a lot in northeast Houston's Settegast neighborhood in 1949.

Edward Stewart planned to build a home on the lot at one point, but never did. He kept up with the payments though.

Stewart still has the papers to prove that her family made payments on the lot for years and paid taxes for decades.

Rifling through a well-organized folder full of documents, Stewart pulled out a tax receipt from 1949 and 1953. She could have gone on and on with receipts.

Somehow, even after all of those payments, her family never got the land's deed. So, when Stewart wanted to sell the vacant land, she was out of luck.

A friend at a title company called ABC13 on Stewart's behalf in 2016. That's when ABC13 met and connected Stewart with Cassie McGarvey, a real estate attorney who volunteers with the Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program.

Back then, McGarvey was pretty confident she could help.

"It will probably take us six to nine months, probably six months," McGarvey told us in 2016.

RELATED: See the start of Stewart's story from 2016.

It took three times as long, but two-and-a-half years later, McGarvey presented Stewart with her deed.

"So this is my deed, huh?" Stewart asked as she examined the long-sought legal document.

"All of the various steps just took a lot longer than we anticipated," McGarvey explained.

McGarvey says she and the team at Houston Volunteer Lawyers had to research several branches of Stewart's family tree, background the old land company and find more volunteer lawyers in Houston, Washington, D.C., and Chicago to all work on the case for free. She explained probate court judges in Houston had to be willing to dig in as well.

"I want to thank them," Stewart told ABC13, "Thank you very much for helping me as much as they possibly could. You know, with the years they're involved in it."

Next up, Stewart needs to find someone to clear the land of some tall weeds and list it for sale.

In addition to her law firm work, McGarvey already has her next assignment from the volunteer lawyers.

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