Angie France presents an excellent lesson in paying close attention to your property assessment.
The 84-year-old Racine resident has overpaid her property taxes for 24 years and now wants the city to repay her. But it’s not that easy as the housing market changes every year, and finding out just how much France overpaid over the last two decades is hard to determine.
France, though, isn’t buying it, telling the Racine Journal Times that “If I owed the city instead, I’m sure they would make sure I pay them back.”
Check out this Fox story to hear directly from Angie.
France did get a bone thrown to her by the city when the Finance and Personnel Committee unanimously recommended to repay her for her 2010 overpayment, about $450. The Racine City Council will vote this week about whether to accept the recommendation or reject France’s claim completely.
Alderman Robert Mozol, who represents France’s district, said even if the city can’t come up with an exact figure owed to France, it should at least try to do better than just a one-year reimbursement.
According to France’s claim, the mistake occurred in 1987 when France and her husband Tom bought the two-bedroom home on LaSalle St, which was listed at about $50,000. The person who assessed the home that year marked it as 1,700 square feet, noting the windows on the upper level of the house and assuming there was a bedroom there. But in fact, the upstairs is just an attic full of insulation and the home should have been measured at 1,200 square feet.
Neither France nor her husband noticed the mistake and simply paid their property taxes, raising four children and going about their lives. In 1999, Tom had a heart attack and had several more over the next eight years, undergoing nine surgeries and the family relied on the home’s equity to pay the medical bills.
Tom France died in 2008 and his wife asked for an appraisal this past March in an effort to keep the home. When the appraiser asked how to get upstairs, France said she’d have to get a ladder. That’s when it was discovered that the city had overassessed the home.
France went to the Racine Assessor’s Office which confirmed the finding and changed the city’s records, dropping the home’s value from $165,000 to $125,000.
Because homes are usually assessed from the outside, it’s not uncommon for homes to be overvalued. That’s why it’s so important for homeowners to pay attention to just how their home has been assessed, and that’s what the appeal process is for.
That’s what is going to make it difficult for France to be reimbursed for the past 24 years. Could the city figure out how much she overpaid? Of course, it would take some work and some time, but it could figure it out. But the appeal process has been in place for a long time. The city can simply argue that France should have noticed this from the beginning, or five years later, or 10 years later. There was plenty of time for her to notice the mistake and appeal the value. Plus, the only state that has a process in place to appeal for taxes already paid (essentially requesting a refund) is Colorado, known as the abatement process.
While local governments say that they want their citizens to exercise their right to appeal and will help with that, most don’t advertise that appealing is an option. Many, many people don’t know that they can have a voice in what they pay in property taxes. And even if they do know, filing a successful appeal can seem like a daunting task. But help is available. If you think you might be overpaying on your home, don’t wait 24 years to do something about it. Log on to ValueAppeal and get a free analysis of your property. You might find that you could save hundreds or thousands of dollars on your tax bill.