Woman loses elderly tax break over property tax mishap

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — In January, Richmond resident Mary Jones paid off her 30-year mortgage. She thought it was a time to celebrate.

“I was feeling good feel like a new person,” Jones told 8News.

That was until the city told her she was delinquent in her property taxes and sent a collection agency after her.

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Her mortgage and tax bill were all together in an escrow account. Jones daughter, Chantell Johnson, called the city to start having her property tax bill mailed home, and that’s when she got surprising news.

“He proceeded to tell me your mom’s taxes are delinquent and this really threw me,” Johnson said, describing a call with the tax assessor’s office.

Records from her Chase mortgage company show payment to the city. There was even a refund from the City.

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“If the taxes are delinquent how on earth are they overpaid?” asks Johnson.

8News reached out to the City for answers. The city says Jones, who was part of Richmond’s elderly tax relief program, failed to send in her annual re-certification form. As a result, she was no longer eligible for that tax break. This meant she owed more than what Chase was paying.

Both Jones and Johnson claim they never got a notice or warning for the City of Richmond.

However, the Finance Department tells 8News says she was notified in June and has record of the letter. Regardless, it took 8News to get Johnson and Jones answers.

Johnson called City Hall two weeks ago but has yet to hear back.

“Have not heard a word from anyone there,” Johnson said.

In the meantime, Jones got a letter form a collection agency.

“This is pretty upsetting, my mother worked all her life and paid off her mortgage, it took her 30 years,” Johnson added.

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The city says Johnson called the wrong department; she called the assessor’s office not the finance department. Yet, the city admits they should have referred her to the correct department.

The Mayor’s office told 8News they are doing a citywide review of all departments focusing on improvements to customer service and performance.

Anyone who has an issue with their property taxes is advised to call the Finance Department. Click here for more information.

As for the city’s elderly tax relief program, you first must apply here.

If you are accepted, it is good for three years, but each year you have to fill out a re-certification form. 8News has been told Ms. Jones will be able to reapply this year for the program.

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