Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Communiques From the City

When you become a TIC homeowner in the City you will undoubtedly, from time to time, receive a mysterious communique from a local government agency. This may arrive in the form of a letter or perhaps appear as an official notice posted on your doorway. Often these interactions result in the TIC having to pay someone or other to get something or other done. Over the past seven years we have had suprise fire safety inspections, unexpected visits from a sidewalk inspector, disputes about which side of the curb certain dysfunctional sewer pipes lie and several scares from the tax collector's office.

So it was with some trepidation that I opened a letter yesterday from the tax collector. It began with "Your request for exemption of the rent stabilization and arbitration fee is denied or adjusted for the reason/s checked below." To the best of my knowledge I have never had any contact with the City regarding a rent stabilization fee. There were some additional boxes checked, a handwritten note reassuring me that my "bill is correct" and a suggestion that I phone the Assessor's Office.

From experience I know the first thing one needs to do in such a situation is contact all the building partners. Because sometimes the City sends out a duplicate letter to all parties on title, meaning all six of us will be scrambling for the phone at the same time trying to get this same issue resolved. Then again, sometimes the City sends out just a single letter to one apparently randomly selected owner on the title, about a matter that concerns the group. In which case that sole party thinks everyone else has gotten the same message and of course someone else must be handling it. So the first thing to do is check in.

In this case I discovered that I was the sole recipient of the unfathomable letter. Lesson two about dealing with the City is don't ask why - just do. If they say you need to call about the denial for an exemption you never requested pick up the phone and dial.

Because lesson three when dealing with the City is that once you get a person on the phone or arrive at an office or otherwise have contact with an actual City employee person they are usually quite helpful. For example, in this case the woman who answered the phone at the tax collector's office told me not to worry about 90% of the content of the letter I had received. She concluded by advising "I'll mail you the form you need for your homeowner's exemption."

The Homeowner's Exemption is something every residential property owner in California should know about. Here is a good article in the Chron offering a summary. Basically the exemption takes some money off the value of your primary residence, which reduces your property tax bill.

So anyway, somehow the letter I received about my denial for exemption of rent stabilization was actually a reminder that our building (for reasons we may never want or need to know) must re-file our claim for our homeowner's exemption. Perhaps this had something to do with the handwritten note on the bottom of the letter referring to "adjusting our computer system." In any case, thank you Matilda, or whoever it was who picked up the phone at the customer service desk, for helping me read the tea leaves.


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