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Kevin Hunt - The Bottom Line
The Bottom Line
May 11, 2013
For at least two years, says Debra Gebhardt of Tolland, she has received assessment notices, bills and statements for a property she doesn't own and knows nothing about other than its street address in Hartford.
"I have called the [city] of Hartford numerous times, faxed and returned mail," she says, "but still I receive these notices. If I knew the owner I'd take care of it myself."
Gebhardt finally contacted The Bottom Line after receiving an assessment notice in early February. John Philip, the city assessor, says he had been aware of the misdirected mailings and Gebhardt should not receive any more correspondence about 1911 Park St.
So how did Gebhardt, a Tolland resident, get mixed up in ownership of a Hartford property? This is a mystery she could have solved if she knew about city and state resources available to every consumer.
In most cases, a call to the assessor's office (860-757-9630) should have been enough. Gebhardt says she called various city departments but couldn't confirm if the assessor's office was among them.
"I've been here a year and a half," says Philip, "and she never got through to me."
It would help to understand how the city's assessment division of the Department of Finance works. For real estate, says Philip, it uses two software programs. The appraisal system stores all the information used to value properties, including a physical description, acreage, square footage and, says Philip, "the legal ownership and our last best known address."
The second program, an administrative system shared with the tax collector's office, "has modules throughout city government," says Philip. "Every department uses it in some fashion."
The assessor's office uses it to create the annual grand list and handle exemptions and credits for the elderly.
"Ultimately," says Philip, "my grand list goes over to the tax collector's office and that's where the bills are created and the payments are tracked — with the same software package."
Consumers can access the database at the city's Property Assessment Data website.
"If you look at my webpage," says Philip, "you're basically seeing the web summary version of my appraisal system, not the assessment and tax system."
The taxes on each property are available on the city's website by clicking on "Pay/View Taxes Online."
Whoever is the property owner of record on Oct. 1 receives an assessment from Philip's office. The assessor's office does not make direct changes in the tax system or the assessment system, says Philip.
All ownership changes are entered in the city's appraisal system, then bridged electronically to the assessment system. Later, it reaches the tax collector's turf on the same software package.
"So if somebody sends us a letter, or gets through to my office or comes to us," says Philip, "we'll do it in our appraisal system and that will be fine. What probably happened here is when she called she ended up with our central call center and they have access to the tax system. But when they make a change in there, we end up overwriting it later when we bridge our data (that's never been updated) to the system that has been updated. All the address changes should come through us. This doesn't happen often but it does happen."
On the assessor's site, Gebhardt could have found the property is owned by 1911 Park St. LLC, that it's a mixed-use, residential-commercial property built around 1918 and, as evidenced by a photograph, the onetime home of the Café Lisboa restaurant.
The property owner's mailing address is listed as 160 Dockerel Road in Tolland, Gebhardt's home. A visit to the Secretary of the State's Commercial Recording Division site reveals the business address of 1911 Park St. LLC as 27 Naek Road in Vernon, also home of Naek Construction. Rashid Hamid, the propery owner, is listed as the manager, with a residence at 164 Dockerel.
"Rashid," says Gebhardt, "is my neighbor."
The next time Gebhardt wants to know anything about the property, she'll have to look it up. She's off the city's mailing list. This mystery could have been solved two years ago. But what about the property at 1911 Park St.? Did the owners still pay the taxes even if they possibly did not receive a notice?
"I pay them every year," says Hamid. "I call them up and find out how much is due and send them a check."
In the years Hamid has owned the property, he has never figured out why he hasn't received any tax bills or assessments from the city even though he says he has called with his address almost every year. Then TBL told him where the mailings were going.
"Oh . . . OK. I got it, I got it," he says, laughing. "Now I understand."
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