Province quiet on who pays inflated property tax bills after deadline
Some homeowners are still hesitant on challenging the province with their inflated property tax bill
Andrea Gauthier's house is caught up in New Brunswick's property assessment controversy, but there is no fix coming for her family.
Gauthier and her husband failed to challenge their inflated tax bill on time.
"We had intended to appeal, it was just a matter of timing," said Gauthier.
"I think with everything going on with the kids and life and appointments and all of that stuff, we just weren't able to get there before the deadline."
Service New Brunswick assessors have been working overtime to try and sort through thousands of claims made by landowners of inflated tax bills, issued by the province's new assessment system.
But corrections are focusing on those who filled out the proper paperwork by the Aug. 1 deadline.
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Others, who neglected to challenge poor assessments done on their homes, are feeling stuck with the tax bills they were initially issued — although that may not be the case.
Gauthier lives on Market Place in west Saint John — a street where the new assessment system caused a number of problems this spring.
Five homeowners on either side of Gauthier who were hit with assessment increases of between nine and 32 per cent, filed objections to the changes and have won substantial reductions.
It's our first home and the first time that had ever happenned.- Andrea Gauthier
Next door, Kimberly Thomas successfully challenged her 31 per cent assessment increase and won a $21,100 reduction following a review of her property by an assessor.
A few houses down, Shirley Doucette's assessment was cut by even more, following an investigation into her objection.
"It made no sense at all," Doucette said about the province's original valuation of her house at $98,800.
"You would never get that if you sold it."
A common mistake
Following the review, the value of Doucette's house dropped to $62,700
Mistakes like that on Market Place were common and although Gauthier also doubted her assessment notice and its claim, her house had jumped 20 per cent in value to $104,500.
But Gauthier and her husband hesitated to act before the Aug. 1 deadline.
"We weren't really sure what to do or what made it go so high," said the Saint John woman.
"It's our first home and the first time that had ever happened … I'm kind of kicking myself for not taking care of it sooner."
But Gauthier is not alone.
Hesitant to speak out
On the other side of Saint John, Carol McGrath was nervous about objecting to an 18 per cent assessment increase on her home.
"We've never ever appealed and then there was so much hype about it — how they had screwed things up and I thought, 'Oh do we really want to get into the middle of this?'" she said.
Owners of several homes on Morgan Road challenged large assessment increases that hit nearly everyone on the small side street.
So far seven have won reductions of between $25,000 and $40,000.
McGrath said she didn't realize so many of her neighbours had challenged their bills and won — something she and her husband, who are both on pensions, are not comfortable doing.
"We've never done it before," she said.
"We never thought we had to."
A record 18,000 property owners did fill out paperwork to challenge their assessment and tax bills by the August deadline.
But Service New Brunswick won't say exactly how firm that deadline really is.
Too late to revisit?
Last spring, Premier Brian Gallant appeared to say property owners could still report assessment problems even after the deadline passed
"We have extended the timeline for requests for review. New Brunswickers can submit those right up until Aug. 1. We have also made it very clear to New Brunswickers that any error in their property assessment can be flagged at any time and there will be no deadline for it to be rectified and corrected by government," Gallant told Opposition Leader Blaine Higgs in the Legislature in May.
On Friday, Service New Brunswick could not define exactly what qualifies as an "error" in a property assessment after the Aug. 1 deadline. They indicated property owners should contact their local assessment office for instructions.
Gauthier is now pretty certain an error was made on her assessment since the province has acknowledged several among her neighbours — and was interested to hear it might not be too late to have it addressed.
"That's a lot of money for my family," she said. "An increase like that we're not prepared for."