Some homeowners in foreclosure clusters seeing higher property taxes

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Most people will tell you their property taxes are high, but some homeowners who live in neighborhoods hit with foreclosures say they have more reason to believe they're paying too much.

Some community advocates contacted the I-Team saying property tax assessments are on the rise in neighborhoods with high rates of foreclosure.

The I-Team found there's a state law that could help people who live in these foreclosure clusters. The problem? It excludes Cook County.

"It's a problem cause the property is still over assessed, overvalued, and overtaxed," said south suburban homeowner Anthony Travis.

Anthony Travis believes he's paying way too much in property taxes because comparable research by the Training Research Advocacy and Education Network (TRAEN) shows he and several other south suburban homeowners live in what are known as a "foreclosure cluster."

Travis himself was under foreclosure and renegotiated his mortgage.

"It affects my life because that's extra money I have to dish out to the county for taxes that I could be utilizing in other ways," said Travis.

His attorneys and other community leaders believe Travis' home is over-assessed by Cook County.

Here's their argument: When Travis was going through foreclosure, his home was being auctioned for $24,000.

His tax attorney's review put the market value at $39,000.

But look at this: Travis' 2017 reassessment of his home value was $78,000.

"Makes me want to cry. Cause I keep trying to figure out where do they get these prices from? When I look at other folks properties in this area - how do they reach that conclusion?" Travis said.

Travis went through the appeals process with the Cook County Assessor's Office then appealed to the Cook County Board of Review. He eventually got the value down to $61,000, but his attorney and other experts say that's still too high.

"Qualified sales show the market value should be $39,000 not $70,000 not $65,000 but $39,000," said Andrea Raila, President of TRAEN, Inc.

Raila, who ran unsuccessfully for Cook County Assessor in the 2017 primary, would like the Assessor and the Cook County Board of Review to be mandated to follow a current state law which says the "Board of Review" must factor in foreclosures...

But that law currently excludes Cook County because it has more than 3 million residents. The law is for counties under 3 million.

"Illinois actually passed a law in 2011 saying you must look at these foreclosure sales, when they rank 25 percent of the neighborhood or greater, you need to incorporate them in your new modeling of assessments so they have fair, more accurate assessments and fair or more accurate property taxes," said Raila.

Raila points to that recent "TRAEN" study showing hundreds of homeowners are blighted with foreclosures and short sales.

"Unfortunately, we are seeing the largest number of foreclosures in the south suburban counties that was just recently reassessed and those are the homeowners that are going to get tax bills in August, second installments, that are going to reflect these increases," she said.

The Cook County Assessor's Office says foreclosures and short sales are not considered to be "fair-market... transactions..."

But then said it did consider the adverse impact of foreclosures on values in Travis's area and it "...does take into account foreclosures in high-volume foreclosure areas."

In a lengthy statement, The Cook County Board of Review said "... its analysts consider each unique market and judge the effects of the housing market crash and foreclosures on all areas of the County."

And that six separate analysts from the board reviewed Travis's case and decided to reduce his assessment by 15 percent.

Travis isn't accepting that answer. He's continuing his appeal with the state board.

"It's very hard to pay the money because I'm on fixed income. And because I am on fixed income, it makes things that much more difficult," Travis said.

To make matters worse for some people who are struggling, property tax rates for the southern suburbs many times are higher than any other part of Cook County. That's because there is less industry and commerce to tax.

If you think you're over-assessed, there may be some steps you can take. ABC7 has information about appealing your property taxes HERE.

For reasons why a property tax appeal may have failed see the form provided by the Cook County Assessor HERE.

The full response the Cook County Assessor's Office released regarding Anthony Travis' property states:
As commonly recognized, appraisal theory considers distressed sales and compulsory transactions such as foreclosures and short sales to not be fair-market, "arms-length" transactions. However, as a policy, the Cook County Assessor's Office does take into account foreclosures in high-volume foreclosure areas.

Per its policy, the Assessor's Office regression equation for Thornton Township (where Mr. Travis' property is located) did take into account the adverse impact of foreclosures on values in that area.

The Cook County Board of Review also issued a statement regarding Travis' home.

The full Board of Review statement says:
The Board of Review's goal is to give each taxpayer a transparent and simple forum to challenge their assessment and to provide a full and fair review of each property so every taxpayer will pay only their fair share of the property tax burden. The Board of Review reviews each file on its own merits. We provide every appellant with our decision and the opportunity to review our work and, if we make a mistake, check that work again. Last year 228,000 property owners appealed their assessments. Each of the three Commissioner's analysts separately review the evidence provided for every appeal and use their real estate expertise to find a uniform value for like properties in thousands of neighborhoods and communities throughout Cook County. Although state statute does not compel the Board to consider short sales and foreclosures, the Board and its analysts consider each unique market and judge the effects of the housing market crash and foreclosures on all areas of the County.

In the case of Mr. Travis, six (6) separate analysts from three Commissioner's staffs reviewed the property and the evidence provided and decided the Assessor's value was too high and reduced it by 15%. As is the case with all our decisions, any taxpayer who is dissatisfied can file, at no cost to the property owner, an appeal of our decision. We are proud this happens less than 8% of the time, but equally proud to be a part of an appeal system which has so many checks and balances, transparent processes, and opportunities for Cook County residents to ensure they are paying their fair share of property taxes and not a penny more.
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