Commercial real estate struggles with delinquent property tax payments during pandemic

ByJason Knowles and Ann Pistone WLS logo
Monday, November 16, 2020
Cook County waiting on $230M in delinquent property tax payments
The Cook County Treasurer's Office typically deals with about $200 million in late payments at this time of the year, but this year they're waiting on $230 million.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Property taxes are a big burden right now, and it's not just families struggling to pay their bills. Shopping malls and hotels are also coming up short.

Counties across the Chicago-area have been offering homeowners extra time to pay their property taxes, but what about bigger buildings?

Commercial real estate has been hit hard by the pandemic, with little relief in sight.

"If you walk into a hotel right now and say, 'what is your occupancy rate,' they will tell you, 'we were going back up but everyone canceled for the weekend' because there is no place for them to come into the city," said Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas.

Pappas said commercial businesses, like hotels and strip malls, are hurting badly. She knows because she said they are the main source of delinquent property taxes.

RELATED: Property taxes: Cook County property owners may see future tax bills lowered, but many seek immediate relief

The Treasurer's office typically deals with about $200 million in late payments at this time of the year, but this year they're waiting on $230 million.

"We are $30 million short in commercial properties; hotels - the Drake, the Hilton, the Palmer House and shopping centers. All kinds of little strip malls. There is a little boutique, no one is buying dresses," Pappas said.

Pappas showed the I-Team a list of hundreds of places behind on property taxes due to the pandemic.

"So now you've got this shopping strip, two stores that are open and two stores that are closed. The two that are closed aren't paying rent to the landlord so the $30 million we are short on is because daddy isn't getting any money from the kids," Pappas said. "The kid is the little restaurant, the little boutique; they are closing, it's over."

The delinquent payments continue, even after Cook County gave an extra two months to pay for each tax installment.

RELATED: Cook County property taxes: More than $100M in refunds unclaimed, treasurer says

Despite the struggles of commercial properties, Pappas said the extended tax deadline helped 50,000 more homeowners pay on-time this year, compared to last year.

Several other county boards also postponed fees and penalties for late property taxes.

McHenry County gave property owners an extra 90 days to pay each installment without penalty. They have until mid-December to pay their second installment, and people are taking advantage of it.

"There are people that do need that extra time, who are really hurting," said McHenry County Treasurer Glenda Miller. "This year, because they had the 90 days, there was more that weren't paying right away. There's about 5,000 more right now and it keeps going down as people are paying."

RELATED: Illinois coronavirus: Which counties are offering property tax relief during the COVID-19 pandemic?

DuPage and Kane counties had an increase in typical delinquencies, but only a fraction of a percent.

Property owners in Lake and Will County had until the first week of November to pay.

State lawmakers are also helping. Legislators moved back the "property tax sale" and liens on those taxes by 120 days. So that's four months after the new "delayed" payment deadlines.