83 Comment

  • Youre right

    Just dont complain when they raise your rent next year.

    • True dat. Those additional costs will be passed to the tenant. Best not to mess with the man.

      • Not really. There’s something called rent control here.

        • There’s something called many exclusions from rent control. We have no idea what kind of building the OP lives in.

        • Yes really. We don’t have NYC style rent stabilization. If you are forced to drop a pile of money on a property or have a large tax increase you can apply to exceed the rent controlled amount. Rent control also doesn’t apply to SFHs unless you own 4 or more.

          • FYI, it’s 5 or more. The exemption is for 4 or fewer. There are other exemptions, the most important one being buildings (of any size, any number of units) built after 1985.

    • I don’t understand why so many people go directly to the negative. Upon reading the letter, it seemed like the management company was trying to protect the tenant from potential con artists who might try to take advantage of the situation to gain access to the property and tenant information by showing a badge. The letter does not say to refuse the inspector, but that the tenant has the right to refuse the inspectors and “anyone else into your home unless you know the person or have arranged access through this office.” I don’t know the management company or anything, but with the amount of crime in the area lately, this just seemed like a good reminder.

      • Its probably both. Burglars using these inspections as a ruse to case places and break-in = headaches and costs for landlords (new locks, fixing broken windows, etc). Inspections in your units = potential costs, whether it is higher taxes or fixing violations you are rolling the dice on expenses. As a landlord basically no good can come from this if you are a slumlord you will have a pile of violations, if you aren’t your property taxes will probably go up. It would be nice if they had some kind of incentive to get inspections (don’t say safety, their inspectors aren’t very good).

      • I got the same letter and read it the same way. They’re not telling us not to let people in, but informing us of our right not to. And yeah, they don’t want their taxes to go up and neither do I. The rent on my apartment has been raised once in 10 years, and I wouldn’t hold it against them if they all of a sudden had to raise it again because they got a huge tax increase.

        • “We therefore ask that you do not allow any inspector into your house unless someone from this office has informed you of an inspection in advance.”
          That sounds like they’re asking you not to let inspectors in.

  • The inspectors might be legit but there are too many scammers out there who will try to mimic them. I wouldn’t let them in either.

  • The inspection will likely result in a higher tax assessment and the LL does not want to pay a higher assessment.

  • Because your landlord has done something illegal to save tens of thousands of dollars a year, like claim the homestead deduction, or forgo the COO, or not have a business license, etc.

    • HaileUnlikely

      I think we all know that John C. Formant has a business license. OP – just for the heck of it, look up your place here: https://www.taxpayerservicecenter.com/RP_Search.jsp?search_type=Assessment and see if anything is wildly inconsistent with reality (e.g., LL claiming homestead deduction, or property listed as a single family home when in reality it has been subdivided into multiple units). If any of that is the case, that explains it. Otherwise, I’d assume that they’re just trying to keep out criminals who will pose as government employees or contractors.

      • It’s a subdivided 4 story building at 12th E. Cap SE – with about 10 units and is appraised at $1.1 million. At work, limited computer use – property owned by a company in Annandale.

      • Linc Park SE

        Limited computer at work.

        Units are side by side, about 4 stories tall, just south of E. Cap on 12th SE – mine has about 10 units (?) and is appraised at roughly $1.1 million. Owned by a company in Annandale.

        • Wow. There are sfh in the neighborhood worth more than that. This has to be about the valuation.

  • Not directly related, but… I know of two houses near me that the landlords are renting as group houses but claiming the homestead deduction for. I haven’t tried to report them to OTR. Should I?

  • It’s a public safety warning. There are con artists who will impersonate any kind of service in order to gain entry into your home. Good on your landlord for informing you of precautions.

    • Nope. No mention of public safety at all. It’s clearly the LL trying to avoid an increase in their property assessment.

      • I agree. This has nothing to do with public safety. If it were, then why did they not remind people that residents can refuse entry to the police without a warrant? It’s easy to get a jacket that says police on it, so impersonation is an issue with police as well.

        • “If it were, then why did they not remind people that residents can refuse entry to the police without a warrant?”
          Because they didn’t just receive information that police will be coming around conducting searches without a warrant. They did, on the other hand, just learn that city inspectors will be coming around to do inspections. So it’s not just a general FYI, it’s actually relevant to something that’s happening.

  • Surprised at all the KoolAid drinks here, or maybe John C Formant has the staff on damage control duty. This is clearly an effort to dodge increased taxes on their properties.

    • Some of us don’t think you should help the government more easily extract taxes from us, especially when we see a lot of waste with the dollars they already take (summer jobs program, anyone?/H Street Trolley Project?). Regardless, yeah, if the landlord gets an increase in his taxes, guess who gets pay more in rent?

      • wait. Are you actually saying you try to reduce government waste by making it more expensive for the government to collect taxes?
        I am literally falling out of my chair laughing.

        • Look at Congress. They have cut the GAO and IRS budgets and justify doing them in the name of cutting government waste.

        • They’re already collecting the taxes. They’re looking for ways to *increase* your taxes. Unless you’re anxious to part with your own money or benefit from mine, I’m not getting why you’d be willing to open the door to more taxes. On a side note, in Louisiana, they once had an option on income tax forms for people to provide more money than they owed to help fund the government. I think a grand total of 0 people took them up on that offer. On another side note, you could easily argue that their staff going door to door is already more expensive and a waste of taxpayer money. Property taxes don’t require individual meetings with homeowners, but DC apparently has an interest in doing it this way.

          • What hooey. This isn’t in connection with a tax increase, it’s an inspection to see whether the property is properly assessed, and/or the property owner is misrepresenting anything to obtain a lower assessment. If you own a house and want to lie about something to get lower taxes, and then refuse entry to the inspectors, I suppose you can (though I hope you get caught). Asking your tenants to do the dirty work and refuse access based on some fig leaf about “concern for public safety” is laughable, though.
            Were I an inspector, I know which properties I’d be focusing on after reading this announcement.

          • DCD is right. Property taxes are based on the current value of the house which is in large part a function of the inside of the house. California taxes based on the value of the house the last time it was sold, and it is a terrible system that cripples local government and has led to the endless suburban wasteland around LA.
            It’s completely reasonable to want to assess the inside of your house. And we all know that 99% of DC assessments are well below market value. You have absolutely no reason to complain unless you are actively trying to avoid paying your share of taxes, in which case you are taking money of of the pocket of everyone else here. Don’t kid yourself by saying this is about rights, bureaucracy, or anything else. This is about you being a selfish, terrible member of the community.

    • Do they own the properties or just manage them for their clients? I own a property and don’t want anybody coming into my house, and its not just for the potential of an increased property tax.

  • it’s not clear to me which is the better strategy on the assessment process. If I let them in they can determine the extent of upgrades. If I deny entry they simply guess.

  • What is the benefit of having them in your house? I’d feel uncomfortable letting someone into my house even if they have a badge unless it was someone I requested to come to my home. Those “lower your energy bills” sales people came to our door recently and did a really poor job of introducing themselves and didn’t show ID. I would not let them into my house or entertain their pitch. I have no problem filling out the form they sent, but is it really necessary to have them INSIDE the home?

    • +1 It seems annoying and intrusive. Just send a survey with the questions they are asking, or post a notice like DCRA did before they inspected my apartment building a couple of months ago. They chose my unit to inspect and I had the option to decline or accept the inspection, and had to sign a form for my landlord to provide to them 5 days in advance. I’d rather be aware of them coming first and sign off on it before just letting people I don’t know into my home unannounced.

    • Because the inside of a how has a huge, huge impact on value. Unless you think that shouldn’t factor in to property taxes.

      • Umm, yes that’s obvious. However, the form asks specific questions about updates and renovations including when you renovated. I think you can provide more details too. Unless this is to get people who are lying about the inside of their house.

        • Based on the comments here it shouldn’t take much imagination to see why OTR doesn’t think owners are accurately representing their homes on the form.

      • Accountering

        I do not think it should factor into property taxes. One should be taxed on the land, and not the improvements. There shouldn’t be a penalty for improving your property, and there shouldn’t be ANY incentive to let land sit vacant/undeveloped.

  • Sure can do! But I do have a no access for assessors fee, of $50 per month which I’ll deduct from my rent.

  • Its not evading or dodging taxes. Its exerting your right as a property owner to not allow agents of the government into your home unless you invite them or they have probable cause/court order.

    I pay the amount I owe to the DC government and I follow all requirements and laws while doing so. If letting them into my house is not required by law, why the hell should I do it? They’re permitted to raise my assessment without doing this. I’m allowed to contest (though, from what I hear, that doesnt succeed very often). There is a process for them if they think my property is undervalued. If they want access to the inside of my house, go ahead and go to court.

    • Jesus Christ how unreasonable can you be? The government has to collect a property tax of some sort and the value of the housing stock varies dramatically from structure to structure. In Petworth there could easily be two houses next to each other where one is worth 800k and the other is worth 400k. The easiest way for the DC government to assess the value of each is to go have a look see once ever four years.
      Would it seem at all fair to have the 800k and 400k houses pay exactly the same taxes? Do you really want DC government to go to court to look at your house?
      This is not about rights its about self-serving people trying to avoid paying taxes they know they rightly owe.
      If you are one of these people you are not some self-styled anti-government hero, you are scum. You are forcing your neighbors to pay more than their share, you are creating additional government bureaucracy to deal with the problems you create, you are fostering mistrust, you contribute about as much to the community as the drug dealers on the corner.

      • What ? I am in complete agreement with Anon X. And I cannot believe people call DCRA to report things that are none of their business and not hurting anybody. What a BigBro mentality. Snitch. Nosy. Yes I do think you Amazing and these other whiny voices are those new to DC. This city has existed long before you got here and will continue long after you’re gone. Yes I’m in a bad mood today.

        • Are you kidding? “Not hurt anybody”? First of all, if you are referring to DCRA I assume you’re talking about code violations. Which of these is it you think don’t hurt anybody? The ones that prevent my neighbors from digging out their basement improperly and collapsing my wall? The ones that regulate electrical systems? The Washington Post article about the Riggs Place fire already indicated there were possible code violations. Were they not hurting anybody? DC uses international building code. These are not random codes made up by some bureaucrat, they are designed by experts to minimize DEATHS.
          Even if you weren’t talking about blatantly putting your tenants in danger, why should it be your right to pay less than others with a similarly valued property? There is literally no reason to complain about this other than you somehow think you should be above the law.
          If, Lisa, are trying to avoid an accurate assessment of your property you are making your neighbors pay more to make up for the lost revenue, you are taking police of the streets, you are taking money from our schools. You are literally the scum of the earth.

          • Blah Blah Blah. Just because I don’t want ‘agents’ roaming through my property doesn’t mean I’m avoiding paying the proper taxes. Yes I inadvertently put DCRA when I meant OTR. Building code violations should be reported but this busybody mentality is what I’m resisting. Anon X covered the subject well and reflects how I feel about this. Am I taking food from your kid’s mouths too? C’mon lighten up and stop being so hyperbolic.

          • …can we be friends?

          • If you really don’t mind paying your share, offer to take pictures. Give them records. Do something that even moderately shows that you’re actually happy to pay taxes based on the actual value of your home.
            As should be obvious OTR needs some way to assess your home. If you’re completely unwilling to work with them, I strongly suspect that you’re deluding yourself when you say it’s “agents roaming through your property.” It’s sure convenient to tell yourself that, rather than being honest about the fact that you are hoping to defraud the government and care more about the 200$ more a year you’ll pay in property taxes then the well being of your friends and neighbors.

        • People cheating the system (e.g. claiming homestead deduction when not really entitled) DOES hurt other people. If everyone did it, the District would get rid of the exemption altogether. Then the honest people wouldn’t have it. It also robs the government (which is the people) of tax dollars needed to make this place run.

        • People not paying their allocated share of taxes hurts all the other honest taxpayers out there.
          Snitches? Really?
          Yes, the city existed long before some of us got here (though I’ve been in DC since 1999 – that’s no one’s definition of recent.) However, it is attitudes like this that made it the ****hole it was for years.

          • Go right ahead and call OTR to schedule them to visit your house to make sure you are assessed enough. Call the IRS for an audit too. Don’t you see the can of worms this opens up? Have people come to your door for access without prior notice?? Do you think there are no correct procedures already in place for the assessors to determine your prop value without random visits? Access to a stranger??? How naive. Even if they are officers of OTR maybe the true agenda is other than or in addition to what’s proffered. 3 large screen TV’s on a waiter salary… let’s investigate further. BTW I got here in 1989 and that’s recent.

          • That’s some seriously batsh*t crazy conspiracy theory nonsense.

      • Of course they want it to go to court because then they can complain endlessly about how the city government is waisting taxpayer money on frivolous court urt court cases. Then it is a win win.

      • Accountering

        Yes. I think the 800K and 400K houses should pay the same in taxes, assuming the land is the same. That eliminates all of this confusion and extra work. Just assess the land.

  • Seems like they are actually trying to protect you. All it would take is a clipboard and you’ve opened up your home to anything from casing a future robbery, to getting robbed or raped. I’ve never heard of city inspectors needing access like that, definitely not within private property.

    • They’ve done it for a while with the onus to properly access. If you’re suspicious, don’t do it, but they should have badges and the like.

      • HaileUnlikely

        Do you know what said badge looks like? I sure don’t. For all I know they picked up that badge at Wal-Mart on the way over to rob me.

  • If this is the same thing they were doing in nw in the winter/spring, it certainly helped me out. There was a lot of stuff in my building/apartment that was not up to code. It is now.

  • This is definitely trying to get away with paying less taxes with the tenants assistance and it is sort of scummy. So many here complain about owners of vacant properties not being good owners by not fixing it up and get on DCRA about not going after owners here is DCRA trying to do their job and there seem to be many telling everyone it is OK to break the law – can’t have it both ways. As for filling out a survey, considering how people outright lie or hedge their bets this is the way DCRA can ensure truthful assessment.

  • and what does their badge look like?

  • Does anyone have an image of a real assessor’s badge they can share? I look at badges or ID for anyone asking to get into my place but I have no idea what a real badge looks like.

  • As others have stated, DC is looking for reasons to increase the tax assessment value of these properties as a way to increase revenue.

    The idea that the District of Columbia “needs” to raise additional tax revenue for anything because what we currently raise is insufficient, makes this life long social and fiscal liberal grind my teeth.

    Municipal budget increase discussions are usually unfair because they ignore the effect of population growth. A better view is “budget spending per capita” as every new resident is going to increase the gross spending.

    So I went back as far as the DC Budget archives would let me (2007). The total DC budget was $7.6B, or $13,217 per resident.

    As of this year (2015), the budget is $13B, or $19,700 per resident, INCLUDING the new 85K residents who’ve moved here since.

    Thats a budget increase of 50% per resident, when the CPI shows us that cumulative inflation during that period was only 13.2%.

    So DC’s budget growth (per capita) has been 4 times inflation during this period, and DC needs to increase revenue more?

    There is so much low hanging fruit in the DC budget “tree”, Tyrion Lannister would get a concussion from walking underneath it.

    • This is a completely spurious point. If you think DC should cut their budget, then by all means ask them to do so. But existing taxes are on the assessed value of a house. As home values increase and as homes are improved, taxes will go up. Housing values have gone up over 20% a year in some DC neighborhoods and renovations add hundreds of thousands of dollars in equity. Keeping assessments accurate and update is critical in keeping the tax system fair and effective.
      If you can find extra money in the DC budget, then by all means, lobby them to make those cuts. If you think DC has surplus revenue and that the best way of using that revenue is to lower property taxes, then by all means lobby the council to that effect. But trying to keep your assessment down is just cheating on your taxes and screwing your neighbors.
      Incidentally, property taxes in neighboring counties with good schools (e.g. Montgomery country) are almost twice as high and assessments closely reflect actual home values, meaning property taxes paid can actually be closer to three times what they are here. There ‘s no reason to complain about property tax in DC.

      • Assessment rates vary from 10-40% higher in the suburb jurisdictions. As you pointed out, they also don’t have the second worst schools in the nation.

        But every other taxable expense is lower, especially the largest which is income taxm which even paying both state and county, you end up paying thousands less in taxes. I know the DCFPI likes to cram that hullabaloo about DC needing to raise its taxes because its the cheapest jurisdiction to live in, but it is completely false, and any fleeting look over their “analysis” brings tears of laughter to your eyes.

  • I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess there two camps on this argument break down (mostly) between owners and renters.

    If you currently own and pay property tax you probably would not be interested in having your taxes increased, regardless of whether it’s a residence or rental property.

    If you rent, then you’ve never had to see several hundred dollars exfiltrate themselves from you bank account every month and into escrow to pay your property taxes.

    If you own, and have no problem with the district raising YOUR property taxes…I’ve got a couple of other ideas for your money.

    • For the record I own. DC property taxes are already completely reasonable compared to other jurisdictions. I understand it hurts, but there’s no reason for the popville readership to be so miserly.

  • When I got this letter, I just assumed they were trying to prevent a bajillion calls from tenants asking WTF there’s a dude at my door, who is he, what do I do??? I would be concerned if they were outright refusing to let assessors come in, but if they arrange it with the management company beforehand, I don’t see a problem. Formant manages a ton of properties. I don’t think they would risk losing their license by doing something completely illegal.

  • Slow your roll, all of you. This is the building owner saying “the owner’s office is who they should be talking to, not the tenants.” The city sent out a ton of these and every con artist in the book is going to be dusting off their fake badge. Don’t fall for the scams and put your pitchfork down.

  • I have a basement bathroom that was installed by the previous owner of my home years ago, most likely without a permit. I’m concerned that the OTR inspection would trigger an inspection by DCRA. I can afford a tax increase (and I don’t mind paying my fair share) but I can’t afford to rip out a bathroom. Anyone know how this data will be shared among DC agencies?

  • I’m not letting anybody into my house unless I have invited them in. If OTR wanted to come in, they should send me a letter, make an appointment, and then we can have a conversation. I want to know who I am expecting, what the badge looks like, and when they are supposed to be there – kinda like Uber. Otherwise, how would I know this isn’t a criminal trying to check out if I’m worth robbing, if I have an alarm / dog / etc, and what types of locks I have on the windows and doors?
    Chances are, though, I am still not going to let them in. Like a previous poster said, I don’t know what permits prior owners did or didn’t pull for whatever they have done. I am not going to run the risk that OTR shares information with DCRA, who then insists on coming and doing an inspection and citing me for the errors of a prior owner who I can’t pass that fine along to. I already pay more than enough in taxes to the District. I am not going to help them charge me even more.
    Plus, it seems suspect to me that they are only focusing on the wealthier areas of town (NW, Cap Hill), when it is some of the poorer areas (Trinidad, Ivy City, Truxton Circle, NoMa) that have seen the biggest spikes in value.
    As for rental units, I know a few landlords who advised their tenants not to let them in as well, and have told them that their rent will increase dollar for dollar with the increase in the assessment when the lease is up for renewal. It’s legal to do that as long as you aren’t under rent control, and most small owners (under five units, I think), as well as owners of newer properties, aren’t. If that’s ethical or not is debatable, but it’s 100% legal.

Comments are closed.