Washington, DC

Photo by PoPville flickr user Phil

“Dear PoPville,

As you know it’s the time of the year when the DC government mails new property assessments. Not unexpectedly, my tax is increasing by the maximum allowable this year, like last year and the year before that. I understand prices are rising in the city, but what incenses me is the lack of services I actually get for my property tax. I’m not sure how many people know this, but if you live in a building that has 4 housing units or more, the city doesn’t pick up your trash. Your building has to arrange for private trash pickup, paid for by a portion of your condo or coop fee.

Our 4 unit building pays about $140 a month for trash and recycling pickup, $1680 a year. If we have bulk trash, we have to pay extra to the private trash company for each instance and the price depends on the size and weight of the item(s). Periodic bulk trash collection is a service owners of rowhouses receive.

The DC government reduces my property tax bill by $150 a year (IIRC) due to the fact that they are not picking up my trash, but this doesn’t even cover 1/4th of my share of private trash fees, and I highly doubt that our building is paying on the high end. I assume the other units in my building are receiving the same deduction. As far as I know, condo dwellers pay the same property tax rate as owners of rowhouses (as a % of assessed value), but we are obviously not receiving the same services.

So consider the ridiculousness of an owner of a $600K condo paying more in property tax than the rowhouse owner next door (with the rowhouse being lived in by a family of 4 generating trash or being rented to a group house with 5 inhabitants) who paid $350K for a rowhouse bought 20 years ago, whereby the city won’t pick up the trash of the condo unit.

I feel like we are getting hit with a double whammy – as condo dwellers are also less likely to have children attending public schools (another debate entirely). And by the way- before anyone chimes in – I’m fine with paying for public schools … at least in this case, DC doesn’t deny condo dwellers the right to send their children to public school.

The practice of DC not picking up our trash and reducing our property tax bill by only a token amount is not fair, and I think this needs to end. Either DC should pick up our trash or reduce our tax bill by what we actually have to pay for private trash service, or at least by a meaningful amount like the city-wide industry average. (I’m willing to bet that the average isn’t $150/year a condo).

DC government operates with a surplus so it’s not like they can’t afford to pay us back.”


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