After buying a house getting that Cook County homeowner property tax exemption shouldn't be that hard but you see....the government is involved...and not just any government but Cook County government. And that's where it gets real tricky. I didn't realize what a mess the process is until my own homeowner property tax exemption disappeared on me this year (I bought my house 2 years ago) and now I'm running the gauntlet to get it back.
Seriously, the way this works starts with a whole lot of "maybes" and "shoulds" and you will get different answers depending upon how you ask the question and who you ask. Believe me...I know...I've called the Cook County Assessor's office several times to straighten this out and gather information for this post.
The assessor's office will first tell you that if the previous owner had the homeowner property tax exemption then you SHOULD get it automatically and in fact you will get it for the year before you lived there since the previous owner lived there the entire year. And since the previous owner lived in the house for part of the year in which you bought the property you will probably get it for that year as well. I did. But then it starts getting murky.
The assessor's office says the new homebuyer SHOULD get the homeowner exemption automatically and if you go to the Cook County Assessor's Office Exemption Form page you will see right at the bottom of this page where it says "Properties that received the Homeowner Exemption last year, will automatically receive the exemption this year if residency does not change." So since a new buyer got the exemption for the first year they lived in the property they will naturally assume that they will get it again. MAYBE. I did not.
Upon further questioning the Assessor's Office tells me that MAYBE you will have to apply for the homeowner exemption for the first full year that you live there. Their office SHOULD mail you an application automatically. They did not in my case. Of course you can go to their Web site and download the Homeowner Exemption application yourself and send it in proactively.
But let's say you didn't file the application and in your case your homeowner exemption disappeared. And you need to look at your property tax bill pretty carefully to see if that happened. Then you need to file the application for a certificate of error - except don't you dare download any of the Certificate of Error Applications found on the assessor's Web site because the assessor's office does not have the correct application on their Web site. Instead, you need to call their office at 312-443-7550 to request the correct application form. You may have to call twice before you actually get it like I did.
Here is what the correct form looks like
The instructions on the back are not only obtuse but they aren't even correct for this situation. For instance they say (simplifying here) that you need to also include a copy of your driver's license and one of the following 3 items, one of which is your driver's license. So can you just include a copy of your driver's license???? Maybe they need two copies of your driver's license????
So I called them just for the heck of it and it's a good thing I did because what they really want is something not even listed on the directions. They want a copy of the closing statement from the purchase of the house. Oh...and they do want a copy of your driver's license.
I did not want to mess around while I was trying to recover my homeowner exemption so I went ahead and paid the full bill. Now that I've filed this application for a certificate of error I SHOULD get a refund.
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