Brandon resident Ron Drake says he has overpaid tens of thousands of dollars in taxes after the province over-assessed the value of this house and has struggled to get answers about what happened.
Drake said the province’s assessment services overestimated the square footage of his house by 40 per cent and also overestimated the furnishings in his house, such as plumbing fixtures and how much of it was finished. It’s something he’s concerned other people could be unknowingly paying for as well.
Details on his assessment file had been entered incorrectly, and it’s possible other peoples’ properties could have the same issues.
"To me, it’s not an isolated case where somebody screwed up … My gut tells me that there’s a larger problem at play here."
Documents the west-end resident submitted as part of a city council presentation on Monday evening show the province uses aerial photography to determine the square footage of buildings on residential properties. When taking a photo of his property, the assessment includes a shed in the corner of his property. The only problem is that it’s not a shed, but a trailer parked on his lot.
"I’m paying taxes on basically an extra half of a house that doesn’t exist."
That extra square footage has meant paying more in property taxes each year. Freedom-of-Information requests Drake filed have also come back with very little, meaning he has struggled to figure out exactly why or how his property was over-assessed.
Since raising the issue about the over-assessment, Drake said the province has knocked $100,000 in value off his property. That decreases his taxes going forward, but he still paid too much in past years. Documents Drake submitted to the city show he is appealing taxes from 2013 to 2019.
Drake said he wanted to make council aware of the issues and spread awareness that other property assessments could be incorrect.
At the meeting, Coun. Kris Desjarlais (Rosser) suggested the city should make residents aware of possible issues with their assessment by putting out a notice.
"Transparency has to be better. If my assessed value is going up 20 per cent, I want to know why it’s going up 20 per cent. Give me the explanation on my assessment … When your assessed value is skyrocketing like that, there should be an expectation that that explanation is there on your assessment."
Mayor Rick Chrest said he hopes issuing a notice would open a dialogue with the local assessments branch.
A spokesperson for the Department of Municipal Relations said the province makes every effort to make sure assessments are accurate and information is transparent.
"When an inspection occurs due to a permit being issued, the property owner is provided the opportunity to review and discuss their assessment.In this case, that opportunity was provided on numerous occasions, through door-knockers and written notice of the assessment change."
According to the emailed statement the department provided, fewer than one per cent of assessments are appealed each year across the province. Seven assessments were appealed to the Brandon Board of Revision in the past year.
Coun. Barry Cullen (Victoria), who is also Drake’s city councillor, said he agrees that the information provided on provincial assessments is inadequate to help people understand why the value of their home changes. It is difficult for people to understand why the assessed value of their home changes from year to year.
"Moving forward, I think the city now will be talking to provincial assessment and asking them to become more transparent."
Properties in Manitoba are assessed every two years. The last assessment took place in 2019 and the next one is scheduled for 2021. While property values across the province grew by seven per cent in the last assessment, values in the city of Brandon grew by only three per cent.
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