Friday, 25 January 2013 04:52

Assessment changes for mobile home parks in Swift Current

Written by  Matthew Liebenberg
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The City of Swift Current is implementing a new assessment method for mobile home parks, but it is a cause of concern for one park owner.

Assistant City Assessor Tami Wall said the transition to the new assessment method should be completed by the middle of the year and most other cities in the province have already done it.
“There’s been a change in policy and in legislation that says that assessors can actually assess trailer parks,” she explained. “It actually should help the trailer park owner to know what is the value of the properties that are on his property.”
The change will mean that the value of a mobile home is assessed in the same way as other property in Swift Current.
“The new system will change to more of an assessed value rather than just a licensing value,” she said.
In the past, the value of a mobile home, which is used for tax purposes, was simply based on its size. The City used a schedule of square footage to determine the category of monthly taxes.
“Now the values of the trailers will be more reflective of an actual value of a trailer, not just based on its size,” Wall said. “If you have a 1976 trailer and a 2012 trailer, should they be paying the same fee? So we’re trying to make it more fair.”
Tim Mastel-Marr, the owner of Trails Terrace View Mobile Home Park, said the new approach will be a disadvantage for him.
“They’re basically forcing us to increase our costs because they aren’t, in my opinion, doing their job,” he said.
Under the old approach he received a five per cent commission to collect and remit the monthly tax portions from mobile home owners to the City.
“If the tenant did not pay then we would in our monthly report to the City to let them know that tenant did not pay their taxes and we wouldn’t get a commission on it,” he explained. “The City would then have to deal with the tax portion, which is what they were owed.”
In November, he received notice from the City about the new assessment method. As the landowner, he will be responsible for the payment of property tax and the five per cent commission fee will be scrapped. The assessed value of the land will be related to the assessed value of the mobile homes on the property.
“They are forcing the owners of mobile home parks to collect the taxes on behalf of the City from the mobile homeowners on assets that we don’t own,” he said. “The City is basically telling us we can claim our money back through higher rents or by trying to collect the tax portion from the homeowners on our property.”
Wall emphasized these changes are required to ensure mobile home parks are treated in a similar way to other businesses when it comes to property assessment and payment of tax.
“No other properties get any money for collecting money in their own businesses,” she said about the commission. “That’s not part of the legislation, so we can’t do that.”
She added property tax is related to land value and the assessed value of any structures on a property, and the land owner is responsible for tax payments.
“If you decided to use that property to make money by letting people have trailers spaces then you’ve chosen to make money off of it,” she said. “So you’re responsible for anything that’s on your land.”
But according to Mastel-Marr, these changes will add more work and risk to his business. His park manager used a form provided by the City to obtain assessment data about each mobile home.
“They didn’t send anybody out,” he said. “My manager was responsible for going around to every lot owner and explaining it and asking each mobile owner to fill it out. Then my manager had to go back and collect it.”
Delinquent accounts are already a management problem for him. Mastel-Marr referred to a tenant who did not pay rent for two years and who was eventually declared bankrupt.
“Their mobile home is still on my property and the City will want their taxes,” he said. “So how do I argue that I shouldn’t have to pay the City because the tenant is not paying me, even though the asset is still sitting there? It becomes a loss for me and there’s no law protecting me.”
Wall said City staff will do assessment inspections on mobile home parks, just as they do on residential and business properties.
“Once we have everything in place it will be easier for us to keep track of things,” she said. “They just become part of the rest of the property groups that we look after.”

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