The LaSalle property owner who complained about being charged for a non-existent apartment last month now believes he was double-billed him for water and garbage as well. Ioan Ruxanda now wants his money back, but so far no one from Montreal’s tax department has returned his calls.
Patricia Lowe, an agent with Montreal’s communications department, assured us he was not charged twice.
“Mr. Ruxanda is definitely not being billed twice,” she wrote in emails prior to the holidays and again last Friday. “He does not need to worry on that account. The Finance department and the LaSalle borough have worked hard to correct the misunderstanding. Mr. Ruxanda is not being billed twice. He will not be billed for the non-existent apartment. The tax account has been corrected.”
Lowe says that the employee from the tax department handling Ruxanda’s file was on vacation last week, but will call him by the end of this week to explain everything.
Ruxanda’s problems come from begin among 2000 people who were identified as possible tax evaders in a basement survey last summer. He and several of the others got their letters in the fall; others will be billed in February as the operation continues.
“Over the summer, inspectors looked at properties that might possibly house a basement apartment,” explained Lowe. “When they found what seemed to be an apartment, whether or not it had a civic address, a finance employee would call the owner for more information. If the information indicated that there was a bathroom and kitchen, or a kitchenette in the unit, only then was a letter sent out to the taxpayer.”
Ruxanda’s letter arrived with two bills in a brown envelope that made the package look like a normal tax invoice. He could either pay $280 ($140 for his own home and another $140 for the basement apartment) or he could visit the borough of LaSalle and pay $5 to sign an affidavit.
According to Salle communications officer Pierre Dupuis “since the Service des Finances started this update operation in July, we have had around 350 owner-occupants come to the LaSalle borough hall service counter to fill in an affidavit, so as to get the exemption because they use the bachelor for their own purposes.”
Ruxanda did not have a basement appartment at all, so he searched for a way to remove the charge from his account permanently. The package contained no contact name, and though it did have an email address and a fax number, it had no phone number. A phone number within the contents was always busy and couldn’t be identified by 311 operators.
After many useless phone calls, Ruxanda complained directly to Mayor Manon Barbe at the borough council meeting. He also decided to pay the $140 tax to cover water and garbage services for his own home prior to the December 19 due date.
A few days later, a borough inspector arrived to confirm that Ruxanda’s building does not have a third unit. When he asked why water and garbage taxes came in November when they’re usually sent in April, the property owner started searching for his April invoices, which he eventually found. Now Ruxanda’s waiting for an explanation.
He doesn’t think he’s alone. “If I got the same $140 bill for water and garbage service in April and then again in November, the same thing probably happened to all those other people too,” he said. “No one’s taking responsibility to make sure citizens are treated fairly.”
December 31, 2012
Resident receives extra tax bill for non-existent basement apartment
A LaSalle resident attended the borough meeting on December 3 to complain that he received a tax bill for a basement apartment that doesn’t exist.
“Thank you for the gift of this extra number 1319A, but I don’t have a basement apartment,” said Ioan Ruxanda. “My taxes doubled. Who invented this situation?”
The situation stems from an administrative desire to find people with unofficial apartments, said Mayor Manon Barbe. Officials decided to hire inspectors—some of whom were students—to travel around various neighbourhoods and find them. “We’re only discovering that this happened now as taxpayers like you complain,” she said. “You just need to visit the borough and sign an affidavit confirming that you don’t rent out a basement apartment.”
That message had already been explained to Ruxanda by borough officials, he said, but filling out that form would cost $5.
“I’m not paying $5 or anything else,” said Ruxanda. “I’m not paying anything. This is your problem. You fix it. This extra $5 fee is just theft.”
The problem may already be fixed. When Montreal’s finance department was contacted about the situation, they couldn’t find any extra bill in the resident’s property account. The only bill Montreal sent was in January 2012, and no basement apartment appears on that bill.
Meanwhile, at the borough level, officials compounded the resident’s frustration first by telling him that fixing the error would cost him $5, then by refusing to let him speak to Manon Barbe to tell her about the problem personally.
“I voted for you,” he said. “I’ve lived here for ten years and I always pay my taxes. I’ve lived in Canada for thirty years. Who is this woman who won’t let me speak to you? So I don’t have a mayor; police officers assume that I’m lying. Who’s working for me?”
Note: This article appeared in the Suburban on Wednesday, December 19.