Property inspectors begin door-to-door visits

Daniel MacEachern
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The City of St. John’s will send property assessors door to door to update tax information.

Coun. Danny Breen. — Telegram file photo

The city announced this week that a team of inspectors will be visiting homes until September to measure properties, take photos, and may ask to enter a home for inspection.

Coun. Danny Breen said the annual work — separate from the citywide total reassessment done once every three years — is done to keep an accurate database for property taxes.

“In our database, we have all the characteristics of every house in the city,” said Breen, chairman of the city’s finance and administration committee.

He added field inspections happen throughout the year, but the city hires extra staff in the spring and summer.

“They’ll ask some questions about the property, if there’s been any changes … is your basement finished? Things like that. They’ll do some measurements outside, just to confirm the information in the system is accurate.”

Under the province's Assessment Act, residents are required to allow inspectors inside — “An assessor or a commissioner may, at reasonable times, without a warrant, enter real property for the purpose of carrying out a duty imposed on the assessor or commissioner by this Act and a person shall not refuse entry to the assessor or commissioner,” reads section 7 (1) of the act — but city spokeswoman Jennifer Mills said residents can also work out a more convenient time for an inspector to come inside.

“Last year, in my ward, I had a lot of calls from people saying, ‘Why are people at my door?’ because we never announced it was being done,” said Breen.

Some people do refuse to let an inspector in completely — perhaps out of mistrust or hoping to avoid hiding recent renovations, which would increase the assessed value and therefore property taxes — which carries with it a fine of “not less than $50,” according to the act, and up to a month in jail if the fine is not paid.

“It’s kind of funny the way people react to these things,” said Breen. “I got an angry email from a guy who said he’d barricade himself into his house.”

Breen noted that visits work both ways — any changes that lower an assessed value need to be noted too.

“You could have somebody that on our records has a garage in their backyard. We go in and there’s no garage — maybe it got torn down. That would have to come off the record,” said Breen.

Twitter: @TelegramDaniel

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Recent comments

  • Buck Tax Dodgers
    May 26, 2014 - 14:45

    The photographer should immediately be flown to New York,mor at least Toronto. This is a wicked pic. I got it up on 80" here, man, I'm hypnotized. This will have the rinkydink electricians covering there half asked tracks for sure. I can hardly breath here. I'm remeasuring everything. Dog lost his house. Clothesline. Gone. 35 comments! Start a chatline on hypnosis. Can Breen do it? Like True Blood. He will Glamour-photo you in to inviting him. Tricky!

  • law abiding citizen
    May 25, 2014 - 19:02

    If you take out permits and play by the rules, you WILL pay more in city taxes than those who slide under the radar. You become the low-hanging fruit, in other words. It is easier to soak the law-abiding citizen than to fix the flawed system.

  • Kent
    May 25, 2014 - 16:27

    This is an absolute and disgusting invasion of citizens privacy.. It's little more than a pretext for the city to raise people's taxes even higher and snooping into people's homes. I can't believe there isn't an uproar about this. This sounds like something in a 3rd world banana republic.

  • Marshall Art
    May 25, 2014 - 11:57

    'A person shall not refuse entry to an assessor' ? Breen should have his assessors try that crapola south of the border, in the States that enforce The Castle Law. They'd be met at the door with more firepower than the Terminator had. Nobody, but nobody, tells those homeowners that they can't refuse permission to somebody who wants to enter their homes. Breen's assessors can crawl around the outside of my house and measure what they like, but telling me that I've got to let them inside my house; I've got a big problem with that because people get past my front door by invitation only. Breen and his thousand yard stare can go take a hike.

  • You can't trust them!
    May 24, 2014 - 11:27

    Even the cops need a warrant! If council would curb its empire building and extravagant spending it wouldn’t need to gouge its citizens. As one who has been burned in the process, I say you’re better off taking the fine and refusing them entry. You’ll pay far more in the long run if you let them in. No one objects to paying their fair share but there’s no fairness or consistency in this system. It is badly broken.

  • Cashin Delaney
    May 24, 2014 - 11:05

    No comment from the suppressed troll again. Well, it is not fit to print, is it? fine. Tely-Puritans. Oh my. Danny Breen = Sheriff of NuttingHam. Can that make it past censors? Is white collar welfare a curse word, or something? Can I use WCW then? Just have Pam Frampton repeat the old Voltaire misquote about dying to preserve the right for arseholes like me to speak ever two weeks. Altruistically signifying Snotty Rag of big business, not the people's paper, but only peon's paint catcher and the senile's budgie cage lining. Breen has a sense of humor anyway, as he declares to find this funny. Too bad the Telegram censors are secular saints of satire-prevention.

  • Crazy
    May 24, 2014 - 06:13

    We don't have any right's, Those of us who work, are just fool, Our leader will find away to keep picking our pocket, until we are out on the street, maybe that not a bad thing, Then the province will have to take care of us, All we would have to do, sit at home, and just demand better living arrangement, lets the other fool foot the bill. So the next time your going to vote, think before hand.

  • Nicki
    May 24, 2014 - 02:05

    Personally, I wouldn't let them in not because I care about the money one way or the other, but because this is MY APARTMENT and I'm not letting random strangers into my personal space for a stupid reason like this. They can go ahead and fine me or send me to jail. What a horrible privacy violation.

  • gerry
    May 23, 2014 - 23:23

    ah, nothing like having some stranger come into your home and onto your land, make a sh*t load of notes so that you have to pay MORE (tax) on something you (supposedly) own, but you cannot do anything with unless you buy a permit...revolutions in the past started over less...

  • Marshall Art
    May 23, 2014 - 20:08

    Look at the picture of Danny Breen. He's saying ' property inspectors vill be knocking on your doors und you vill open your doors or vee have vays of making you open zee doors. Do you all understand vott I am saying ? Is my penetrating stare not enough?

  • Duffy
    May 23, 2014 - 19:59

    The King (is that Breen) and can decree what shall take place in his Kingdom of St. John's. I would suggest that forcing into one's house or if refused charging the homeowner is without a valid warrant is against the Charter of Rights. But again it is St. John's and who knows what they do and why. BUT the King may Levy taxes and it is easy to squander the money of the masses and peasants. Good luck to the poorer citizens and those retired.

  • Marshall Art
    May 23, 2014 - 19:58

    Look at the picture of Danny Breen. He's saying ' property inspectors vill be knocking on your doors und you vill open your doors or vee have vays of making you open zee doors. Do you all understand vott I am saying ? Is my penetrating stare not enough? Vee can do diss. Shut up !! '

  • Paula
    May 23, 2014 - 18:31

    This has nothing to do with Doc and his friends in a tax grab, or City Hall making up laws so they can do what they want - this is provincial law. All municipal assessors have the right to request to enter a property for the purposes of assessing it. If you really don't like the law, then lobby your MHA to change it or the way taxes are levied. I have worked for 2 different towns and trust me there is a lot of unpermitted work done all around the province. I have had people say directly to me "I'm not getting a permit to build something on my own land." only to have to pay the price later when a $10,000 garage has to be pulled down cause it was built too close to a water or sewer line that needs to be dug up.

  • Paul Revere
    May 23, 2014 - 15:27

    Take a look at this folks. Unsure if this would apply all across Canada...If not hope it is challenged here.

  • Maureen
    May 23, 2014 - 15:02

    There are two segments of the electorate in St. John's that have been harder hit than any other when it comes to this tax gouging by City Hall. The first are the low income earners - those working minimum wage for people like Cathy Bennett. Now, because those people invariably rent - not own - they don't see this as an issue. Few of them even vote. Many of them complain about high rents but can't seem to grasp the relationship between rental rates and the soaring cost of maintaining properties in this city. By not voting they give a pass to tax grabbers like Breen and O'Keefe. The second group are homeowners on fixed incomes. There is actually quite a large number of these people. They haven't got rich from oil, and the fact their houses are worth much more today than 10 years ago doesn't do a thing for them - unless they sell up or their children sell up when there gone. These people are usually very responsible. They feel it their obligation to vote. but oddly enough they are the more likely by far to vote for people like O'Keefe, Hann, Tilley and Breen - the people least like to speak up for them when it comes time to raise taxes. The vast majority of councillors speak for money. It's that plain and simple. One of the few candidates that did not - O'Leary - was shown the door by the Ole Boys Club. So while I sympathize with those struggling to make ends meet, frankly you have no one to blame but yourself.

    • Nicki
      May 24, 2014 - 02:08

      With all due respect, I am a low-income person who DID vote, and not for anybody who enacted this so-called law, either. The idea of this being a true law is laughable. So as much as you'd like to blame the public, it's clear you don't actually know who voted for who, nor do you care.

    • Nicki
      May 24, 2014 - 02:10

      With all due respect, I am a low-income person who DID vote, and not for anybody who enacted this so-called law, either. The idea of this being a true law is laughable. So as much as you'd like to blame the public, it's clear you don't actually know who voted for who, nor do you care.

  • dontgetmestarted
    May 23, 2014 - 14:09

    Perhaps if all the citizens of our fair city were honest enough to go & get a permit for renos & improvements this would not be necessary. I'd bet for every permit obtained there are 2 done without. I have 'done the right thing' everytime for mine. Can you all say the same thing?

    • Jay
      May 24, 2014 - 09:53

      Perhaps if certain city councillors didn't feel the need to regulate the citizens to death, there would be no need for all of these stupid permits. Is Danny Breen that arrogant that he thinks he can puff out his chest and convince us that he's doing us some kind of a favour with these assessments. He, along with the majority of city council, takes an extremely adversarial, dictatorial role with the constituents in governing this city. Many developments are seen as pet projects of individual councillors, and approved and implemented without proper notice. Other points of view are not appreciated, and the citizens are seen primarily as a source of funding, and secondly as a nuisance. But many posters are correct, it's our own fault for voting for these power hungry buffoons.

    • JessM
      May 26, 2014 - 14:27

      Dear dontgetmestarted, Do you spruce up the look of your home by painting rooms in your house? If so, have you applied for the proper permits from the city to do that? Look it up, you need it for that too.

  • RObb
    May 23, 2014 - 13:40

    Certainly no sense for them to come to my door. THey are not getting in. I don't know who any of them are, and they may be casing my house. Sorry, not in my castle.

  • m
    May 23, 2014 - 13:34

    • Vanessa
      May 26, 2014 - 07:43

  • Gary
    May 23, 2014 - 13:30

    Never dreamed i would be saying this ,but i can`t wait to retire so i can sell my home and leave St.John`s.I grow here and i do love the place but i feel the way City Hall is doing bussiness to so unfair.I worked a lifetime and payed my fair share all the way but i really think they are just going to raise your tax at the the end of the day. We all had the chance to get this crowd out but people will still put em back no matter how much they stick to ya.

  • j
    May 23, 2014 - 13:25

    Stop using tax dollars to hire staff to go around door to door asking to go into people's homes. same issue for regular staff. + when the city comes into people's homes they have been known to disrupt people's lives when permits were not taken out, etc. This is more than a tax grab - this destroys people's lives. To the city - have some compassion - the citizens didn't vote you in to do this. Listen, Please Listen. You may have had that law approved for one reason - but the way it is being applied can affect people who are just trying to live their lives & this can put them over the edge financially & cause extremely high level stress - Please rescind this law & taxpayers - please take this to court for a challenge. If you think you know the impact of this - multiply it by ~ 10,000 times - that's how serious this is.

  • Fine Crowd
    May 23, 2014 - 13:14

    What a bunch of whiners? This happens everywhere where property taxes are based on the capital value of your property. Everyone complained about their property estimates so why not try to be more accurate.

  • DWB
    May 23, 2014 - 13:02

    Now there's a by-law I'd love to see challenged in court!

  • guy incognito
    May 23, 2014 - 12:44

    So the police have to have a warrant but the goons from city hall can come into your property when they like and you can't refuse them??? Not likely. Just another tax grab from Doc and friends so they can afford their luxury projects. Council needs to go.

  • Sad
    May 23, 2014 - 12:26

    This is about picking a person/person's pocket until the day they die,

  • Jason
    May 23, 2014 - 12:10

    A petition should be circulated and a class action lawsuit filed against the city for having such a provision that clearly violates the privacy rights of its citizens! This is not only a violation of individual privacy but a total waste of taxpayer money. Every renovation to a home requires a permit and the value of the renovation is noted on the permit. This is all the information they need to revise the assessment. If the City don't believe the value on the permit they should send the inspector immediately after the renovation is completed ... the homeowner prearranges the time and date. Message to ALL homeowners ... don't answer your door and call the police when the City come knocking ...

    • Christopher Chafe
      May 23, 2014 - 13:27

      That would be assuming that everyone that does renovations to their property will abide by the rules and get said permit.

  • TimM
    May 23, 2014 - 11:44

    This is just a scam to find out who has decks and sheds. Idiots arbitrarily raise water tax every year anyway they're looking for more. Bremen is being dishonest, in my opinion.

  • Maggy Carter
    May 23, 2014 - 11:33

    I think Mr. Breen and Ms. Mills are being very tongue-in-cheek when they cite section 7(1) of the City of St. John's Act as their authority for invading the privacy of your home. No doubt they've been told by the City Solicitor that that particular by-law isn't worth the paper it's printed on. Canada's courts have already ruled that such by-laws constitute an infringement of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in that they permit a warrantless search of residential properties.

  • Gwen
    May 23, 2014 - 11:15

    Sounds like "Big Brother 1984"

  • Virginia Waters
    May 23, 2014 - 11:09

    You've got to hand it to them. They're a hard faced lot at City Hall. Not a scintilla of shame among the whole crew. Even as they poor mouth themselves to the federal and provincial governments, they are sitting on the greatest cash stash that ever befell any municipality anywhere in Canada. No need to raise the mill rate, just sit back and let the moolah flow in as homeowners and small business owners keep digging deeper and deeper to keep up with taxes tied to soaring property values. Now they want to violate your privacy to see if maybe they can rake another few million. Disgusting. Absolutely disgusting.

  • Vanessa
    May 23, 2014 - 10:51

    How can you be required by law to allow somebody into your home that you do not know, and does not have a warrant to do so? I'm not hiding anything but I don't trust anybody including city council.

  • Maxwell J.
    May 23, 2014 - 10:47

    This message to you from one of the lesser poobahs on behalf of the grand poobah and all the other poobahs who aren't satisfied with their existing great tax grab from the citizens of St. John's and so would like to dig a little deeper into your pockets. If you wouldn't mind just sticking your hands up in the air for a minute while we rifle through your drawers. We only want your jewels. We promise not to touch anything else. Not convinced ? Squeamish? Yea, but you see, that's the law. No you don't want to break the law do you? Privacy, privacy - that's all we hear these days! Look - if you're an honest citizen with nothing to hide, then you shouldn't mind us rummaging through your short shorts, now should you? You don't mind going to the doctor for a physical do you. Well think of it as a physical for your house. We'll even wear rubber gloves if you like. And we're not unreasonable people. We'll schedule an appointment for your shakedown that is convenient for you. Don't want to be shook-down? Alright, if you insist, then we'll give you the option paying us $50 at the door and we'll be on our way. Can't be any fairer than that now can we? Respectfully, your friend Danny. (no, no - not that Danny, the other Danny).

  • It's funny how people respond, says Mr. Breen
    May 23, 2014 - 10:37

    Of course, all these guys can be trusted and the pictures of the inside of your house are 100% secure! You can't trust Eastern Health to keep your medical records secure, you can't trust RNC employees to keep drug investigation details secure, you can't trust school boards to keep personal information secure, but you can trust the city to protect your home security? Yeah, right.

  • Thomas
    May 23, 2014 - 10:37

    Breen and that tribe down at city hall are going to tax every senior into the poor house before the 4 year term is up. Just think - if he got elected as an MHA he would have been the interim finance minister. Shudder.

  • James J.
    May 23, 2014 - 10:19

    Thank you Danny for my laugh of the day. 'We're from the City and we're here to make sure you're not paying too much tax.' Please don't take it personally Danny if I don't answer the door. ...... On the other hand, yea - go ahead - take it personally.

  • Dan
    May 23, 2014 - 09:29

    Even the police need a warrant, but the city of St John's doesn't? How is it that privacy laws aren't being broken here?