Gary H. Smith
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Are You a Senior Who Is Having Trouble Paying Property Taxes?

By Gary Smith
Are You a Senior Who Is Having Trouble Paying Property Taxes?

Cook County senior citizens who are unable to pay the full amount of property tax bills can apply to be in the Senior Citizen Real Estate Tax Deferral Program offered by the Cook County Treasurer’s office.

Qualifying for the Program

The Senior Citizen Real Estate Tax Deferral Program allows qualified seniors to defer a maximum of $5,000 per tax year, which is inclusive of both first and second installments, on the primary home. The program works like a loan from the State of Illinois and is repaid when the property is sold or when the participant dies.

To qualify, participants must:

  • Be at least 65 years of age as of June 1 of the year in which the application is made
  • Have a household income of $55,000 or less
  • Be a surviving spouse of a previously approved applicant who is at least 55 years of age within six months of the taxpayer’s death
  • Have owned and occupied the qualifying property for at least three years
  • Have fire or casualty insurance coverage for the qualifying property in an amount not less than the amount of the taxes being deferred

Additionally, participants must not owe outstanding property tax or special assessments and must have written approval from the spouse, if filing jointly, or a Trustee if the property is held in a qualifying Trust, to participate in the program.

If those qualifications are met the property owner must fill out an application, which is available on the Cook County Treasurer’s website (Forms IL-1017 and IL-1018), and turn it in between Jan. 1 and March 1. There will be documents that need to be turned in along with the application, and applications must be re-filed on subsequent years the property owners would like to participate.

This program is similar to a loan program, and there is a 6% simple interest per year. It is also flexible, so a homeowner can withdraw, keep the loan, pay off the load, and re-enter into another loan the following year. For properties held in a Trust, applicants must submit both the Trust Agreement and the Deed in Trust. Only those properties held in an Illinois Land Trust can participate in this program.

Although approval is not necessary from the mortgage lender to participate, it is advised to notify the lender to make sure participation doesn’t violate the mortgage agreement.