Instead of removing appliances to make a home seem uninhabitable, there are legal ways to lower a property’s assessment which may, in turn, reduce taxes. During the campaign season, much has been made of the alleged scandal involving our Goveneror elect and the mansion he and his wife purchased next door to their home. They allegedly allowed the home to fall into disrepair and even went so far as to the remove the toilets to be able to claim the property was uninhabitable on their property tax appeal.
The Cook County Inspector General Patrick Blanchard said in a confidential report that this action constituted a “scheme to defraud,” though the Governor-elect claimed he did nothing wrong.
“I’ve been saying all along there are flaws in the property tax system,” he said. “We followed the rules.”
Legally Lowering Property Tax Assessments
First, taxpayers should make sure the Cook County Tax Assessor’s office has the correct information on the property. This information can be accessed online or by contacting the tax assessor’s office. Property owners should double check that the information on the property includes the correct square footage, room counts, and the proper designation of finished—or unfinished—space.
Also, they should make sure the zoning information is correct and that it has noted anything that might impact the buildable area on the property, such as a conservation space, drainage or utility easement, and it reflects the correct amenities or if any amenities—such as fencing, sheds, pools, etc.—have been removed.
The next step to take is to check out how much neighboring homes are paying in property taxes. This information is available on many websites or by just asking neighbors. However, people should make sure the homes used for comparison are truly similar in terms of size, the number of rooms, the age of the building, etc.
Another way to lower property taxes is to tap into the local laws and incentives. In Illinois, there are property tax exemptions as well as deferrals for seniors and people with disabilities. Some municipalities have green tax credits for having solar panels and other green initiatives.
If any of this sounds overwhelming, there are lawyers who can assist with filing a property tax appeal, for either a flat fee or a percentage of the dollars a homeowner receives back from the appeal if it is won.