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Woman Overpaid Property Taxes For 40 Years

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Roberta Cannon has been overpaying property taxes on her Everett home for 40 years.

“And the more I thought about it, I got upset because that’s a lot of years to be overpaying property taxes,” said Cannon.

An appraiser recently informed Roberta, that her home was 200 square-feet smaller than reported to the Assessor’s Office when built in 1971.  Cannon and her husband purchased the home six years later.

“It’s just not fair,” said Cannon.

Here’s what I found out.  Cannon’s home had the same builder and virtually the same plans as her next-door neighbor, but they weren’t built the same.

The neighbor’s home had an “H” shape with extra rooms at the rear of the house.  Roberta’s house doesn’t have those extra rooms.

The reason it wasn’t caught? County appraisers typically only check the front of homes.

“Typically, they don’t have the time to go and physically walk around the property.  If we had been able to do that we would have been able to see the change,” said Snohomish County Assessor Linda Hjelle.

Hjelle says she has just 12 people to check 50,000 homes a year in a growing county.  The office ranks 34th out of 39 counties in the state for appraisers per parcel.

“In 2007, which is more than 5 years ago. 10 years ago, we had a staff of 72, we are down to 62 staff now,” said Hjelle.

That means county appraisers can only visit homes once every six years.  Hjelle said that lack of staff could affect the assessed value of properties across the county.

In Cannon’s case, Hjelle sent another appraiser to the property and will be providing a refund, but the law only allows her to go back three years.

“It would be difficult to recreate the tax as they were back 40 years or 30 years or 20 years from now to make sure they are refunding the correct amounts,” said Hjelle

Cannon will get a refund of nearly $400 -not close to what she deserves, but she still has her home and the piece of land she calls paradise.

“Someday someone is going to put 8 houses back here, probably,” said Cannon.  But not now, I said, she’s going to to enjoy it.  “I’m not going anywhere,” said Cannon.

Snohomish County can refund or collect for three years for Manifest Errors.  Pierce and King Counties are also 3 years. Kitsap county is up to 6 years.

Check your property versus the assessors website in your county, and if you think something is wrong, call them up. They may send someone out.

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