Money

Property owner says getting her tax bill corrected was a frustrating process

By Louise Sproule

July 30, 2018

Setting the record straight when it comes to her property tax bills has been nothing short of a major headache for Marlene Bleau.

Paying property tax on a severed lot that was not officially registered as such, and getting the billing names straightened out on her tax bill has been a seven-year battle.

The problem with the severed lot dates back to before Bleau and her husband purchased the property.

When Bleau and her husband purchased a home at 3280 Stardale Road in 1999, she says that part of the sale included transferring the property into hers and her husband’s name. Bleau says that at the time, two tax bills — one for each of two properties, began arriving by mail. One was for 1.1 acres with the residential dwelling on it and the other 1.5-acre property was being taxed as a building lot.

That was in 1999. It was only when Bleau and her husband parted ways, in 2011 that, as Bleau was making arrangements to have both properties transferred to her name in the fall, that her lawyer told her that there actually was no second property in both of their names. Bleau went to the Land Registry Office to see for herself. There was just the one, 2.67-acre property which had been listed in Bleau’s and her husband’s name.

After several attempts to resolve the discrepancy at the township offices, she was told to contact the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC), which confirmed that although an application to sever a 1.5-acre lot from the 2.67 acre property may have been made in 1979-1980, and the township had changed its records to reflect the existence of the severed lot, the change had never been filed with the Land Registry Office. The lot was, indeed, still part of the existing 2.67-acre property, meaning: there was no building lot.

But the Township of East Hawkesbury had been charging the owners property taxes on that building lot, likely since 1979. The so-called building lot has no civic number assigned to it, notes Bleau, who as recently as March 1, 2018, received a property tax bill for the building lot, which – to make matters worse – was still listed in her name and her husband’s name, seven years after she first contacted the township about removing his name from the tax bills.

The February 2017 property tax bill shows that the “building lot” had a value of $30,500. In 2016, the building lot had a value of $42,000.

Although Bleau says she was told that the property has been consolidated and that the taxes and penalties on what she refers to as the non-existent lot would be reversed, she had not received any notice or letter to advise her that this had been done.

In the meantime, Bleau had filed a request for reconsideration with MPAC, which recommended a property value of $165,500, or just over $3,000 more when compared to the 2017 property valuation. The annual taxes on the building lot were about $400.

Since 2015, a fed-up Bleau says she stopped paying her taxes, hoping the situation would get corrected.

Luc Lalonde, Chief Administrative Officer/Clerk-Treasurer at the Township of East Hawkesbury, says the township has done nothing wrong and has tried to accommodate Bleau. He said last month that the lot was consolidated, the taxes and penalties had been reversed and there was no more tax billing happening for the vacant lot. He says the original lawyer who helped with the purchase transaction may be at fault.

During a July 26 interview with The Review, Bleau had still received no word of the taxes or penalties being reversed.

For her part, Bleau said she would be happy with even three years of the taxes and penalties on the lot reversed, but notes that she first brought the information to the township’s attention in 2011. When she contacted Glengarry-Prescott-Russell MP Francis Drouin’s office to ask for help, staff recommended she contact MPAC.

“MPAC has been great,” notes Bleau, who had been in contact with them several times over the past years.

“They have given the township everything it needs to put this right. The valuation is there, right back to 2012,” Bleau says.

On Monday, The Review contacted the Township of East Hawkesbury to ask if any property tax charges had been reversed related to the building lot property.

The Review received a copy of a resolution reflecting that at an April 28 regular council meeting, the Township of East Hawkesbury approved a tax and interest write-off in the amount of $1,338.20 in taxes and $284.18 in interest due to the “severance consolidation.” Lalonde says this removes all of the unpaid taxes and penalties related to the additional lot.

Sent by email to The Review as the result of a request sent to East Hawkesbury, Bleau was included by The Review in the email request. When she saw the copy of the resolution from the April 28 meeting, she says that was the first she had heard of the refund or that her case had been part of a council meeting.

Bleau is also wondering about two of her recent tax bills. Between May 28, 2018 and July 12, 2018, the past due amount on Bleau’s tax bill increased by $1452.69. Bleau is worried that the municipality has re-calculated her consolidated property taxes, dating back to 2011 values and this, using an additive amount which put a higher value on the supposed lot, all of which was corrected by MPAC. If that is the case, she would like a refund for the property taxes she paid for the lot dating back to 2011. Still, she does not know how that extra amount was calculated. She would like to see an itemized list of her property tax amounts, the MPAC assessment value used and the penalties calculated since 2015.

Luc Lalonde reiterated that no tax bill was issued for the building lot property in 2018 since this role was consolidated and underlined that the municipality works with the role and assessment provided by MPAC.

Bleau’s advice is to check everything when you are purchasing a property. She says that the past years have been very trying and that she was just told repeatedly that someone would look into it.