Stench from 'cat house' prompts call for tax relief

A couple who lives next door to a house where more than 200 cats once lived say they want the City of Corner Brook to give them a break on property taxes.

More than 200 animals had been removed from Corner Brook house in 2012

Doris and Keith Cormier say a house next door where 200 cats once lived has caused their property value to plummet. (CBC)

A couple who lives next door to a house where more than 200 cats once lived say they want the City of Corner Brook to give them a break on property taxes.

Keith and Doris Cormier said the value of their dream home overlooking the ocean has nosedived as a result of the stench left by the former feline residents.

"Out here today, you can smell it, you can smell the house," said Keith Cormier. "It's about six or seven degrees, there's a light breeze, you can smell the cat feces."

"The last year has been completely horrendous for us," said Doris Cormier. "We've been living with the smell, flies, with total loss of privacy. People coming down to gawk and look at the house."

The Cormiers said the City of Corner Brook has appraised their house at about $292,000, which gave them a 2013 property tax bill of $2,332.

However, they said they consulted three real estate agents, who estimated they would only be able to get $150,000 to $170,000 for the house because of the stench from next door. 

At that price, the Cormiers estimate they should only pay about $1,600 in property tax.

Cats removed in 2012

Police, animal control officers and the SPCA removed the cats from the house, owned by an elderly man, in May 2012. A shed on the property was torn down in June 2012 but the house, which was extensively damaged by a fire last August, still stands. 

Council passed a motion in November giving the owner of the property 30 days to fix up his hosue, or have it torn down. But it's still standing.

Deputy Mayor Donna Luther said the city has straightforward rules about property taxes.

"Anybody, any citizen of Corner Brook, can apply to the city to have their taxes deferred based on financial hardship, so that's open to anybody," said Luther. "And that's the only time we would look at changing anybody's taxes and it's only a deferral.

"We don't write off taxes at all for any citizen."

City aware of problem since 2008, says Cormier

Keith Cormier said he had been corresponding with Corner Brook officials about the cat-hoarding problem since 2008. He said the first time the city acted on the problem was last May, when officials seized the cats.

The Cormiers did not complain to the city about their tax bill when they received it in December 2012 because they hoped court action involving the decrepit house would see it removed by the spring. But they said they've since learned the legal action could take several years.

Keith Cormier said he's not sure how much longer he and his wife can take the financial toll of paying taxes on a property which has a diminished value. He said he's also not sure how long they can take the smell.

"That stuff's been there all winter, it's rotting," Cormier said. "God knows when it warms up again, how bad it's going to get here on the laneway."