Problem Solver: Property tax refund stuck in red tape

Tax adjustment causes more headaches than rehab of dilapidated house

The house wasn't much to look at. Its windows were old and leaky, and the paint was flaking so badly there were spots that were stripped clean. And the lawn was overgrown.

"It looked like a condemned property," said Mark Hosty.

But the dilapidated 1884 Forest Park farmhouse piqued Hosty's interest.

A real estate agent, Hosty has rehabbed houses as a hobby. So when a friend of the owner called and asked his advice on what to do with the property, Hosty had a simple answer.

"I said, 'I'd buy it,'" Hosty said.

In January, he paid $62,000 for the converted two-flat on Elgin Avenue.

Hosty, who also serves as a Forest Park commissioner, said friends told him he was nuts. "Most people thought it was a teardown," he said. "It was uglier than ugly."

Not anymore. Over the course of several months, Hosty, who also lives in the neighborhood, restored the house and found renters for the property.

Turns out, the rehab was the easy part.

Untangling the mess surrounding the house's property taxes has proven considerably more difficult.

On Feb. 3, less than two weeks after he bought the house, Hosty sent a check to the Cook County Treasurer for $4,652.20, to cover the property's 2011 first installment taxes.

At the same time, Hosty filed an appeal to have the property reassessed, saying the house was, at the time, so run down it was uninhabitable.

The appeal was successful, and the county reduced the amount of the 2011 first installment property tax bill from $4,652.20 to $1,616.61.

Because he had already paid the $4,652.20, Hosty applied for a refund of $3,035.59.

That's when things became muddled.

Unbeknownst to Hosty, Bank of America, the mortgage company for the house's previous owner, also paid the treasurer's office $4,652.20 for the first installment taxes.

Between Bank of America and Hosty, a total of $9,304.40 had been paid in property taxes for a bill that amounted to just $1,616.61. Suddenly, the county was sitting on an overpayment of $7,687.79.

Confused about how to distribute the refund, the Cook County Treasurer's office sent Hosty a letter rejecting his refund application. He applied again and was again rejected.

After applying for a third time and getting no results, Hosty emailed What's Your Problem?

He said he doesn't care what the county does with the money Bank of America paid, he was only concerned about the $3,035.59 that he believes is rightfully his.

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