Home seller fights for $4K tax refund sent to new homeowner

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The I-Team investigated what a home seller is calling a property tax refund mixup and that man?s fight for $4,000. (WLS)

The I-Team investigated what a home seller is calling a property tax refund mixup and that man's fight for $4,000.

The Cook County Assessor's Office is blaming the seller of the home, saying he and his attorney may have made a mistake. But the seller says he submitted the proper county paperwork. And he wants his property tax refund.

"I do feel like I am getting the run around," Martin Stojanovich said.

Stojanovich says he wants almost $4,000 from the Cook County Assessor's Office.

It's a "senior freeze" tax refund, for his late mother's property, which he sold last year.

A week after the sale, he filled out an assessor's form with his name, the property address, and his current home address, so he could get that refund check. But when he called to get an update:

"They said, 'Yes, you cashed it.' I said, 'I never received it. I never cashed it,'" Stojanovich said.

"You're saying they sent it to the wrong person?" reporter Jason Knowles asked.

"Yes sir, that's exactly what I am saying," he replied.

The I-Team obtained a copy of that check from the county treasurer's office, showing it was sent to the property that he sold and written out the new buyer of the home, not Stojanovich.

"Mr. Stojanovich filled out the form with the assessor's office to get the money back for the senior freeze. Why didn't the check go to him?" Knowles asked Tom Shaer, deputy assessor of communications.

"Mr. Stojanovich filled that out after the sale of the home," Shaer said. "That should be taken care of at closing. It is very common to take of at closing if it wasn't done at closing like in this case, there is no way the assessor's office is responsible for that. We followed proper procedures with the information we were given... according to the law."

The assessor's office spokesperson says it is now a dispute between Stojanovich and the home buyer.

In February, Stojanovich's attorney sent a letter to that homebuyer's attorney demanding the money back.

"Even if I fill out the application, it doesn't mean I am going to get the check?" Knowles asked Shaer.

"That's what closing and property attorneys are for," he said. "It's not a person, it's a piece of property, the real estate, so the taxes are due on the real estate the refunds go to the real estate."

Stojanovich and his attorney contend that the assessor made a mistake because, they say, Stojanovich personally went into the assessor's office, filled out the form and told an agent to send him the money.

"If I didn't pay my Cook County taxes how would I be looked at? I'm sure they would send all kinds of letters and threats," Stojanovich said.

We also reached out to the new homeowners who cashed that check and their attorney. They have not yet responded.

If you are trying to get a property tax credit when selling, the assessor's office says you should have specific provisions in writing at the closing, so it is clear who gets the money and where it needs to be sent.

Because of our story, the assessor's office said it's checking to see if more can be done to inform people about the rules on obtaining property tax refunds.
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