Property inspectors begin door-to-door visits

Daniel MacEachern
Published on May 23, 2014
Coun. Danny Breen. — Telegram file photo

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

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