There’s a possibility that you got a letter in the last week from the DC Office of Taxation and Revenue about your property taxes, and you opened it, like me, to discover “Oh shit! They’re gonna raise my property tax because they think no one really lives here!”
That’s right, DC OTR sent out letters to all vacant property owners about the upcoming tax assessment period, and it may have caught some people unaware. DC maintains a significantly higher property tax rate for vacant properties, and an even higher one for those properties listed as “blighted.” For those keeping score at home, blighted means: “unsafe, insanitary, or which is otherwise determined to threaten the health, safety, or general welfare of the community,” which I can surely say our house is not.
If you got listed by mistake, there’s steps you can take to fix it, read on.
When the letter first came in, I was fairly shocked, as we’d moved in last April, and in the most diligent possible way, we checked every box, dotted every i and crossed each t as we moved into our house in Brookland. Regardless, someone didn’t get told at DCRA that our house was now occupado and our assessment due to be charged at the usual rate. Here’s how to fix it.
First: run do not walk to DCRA and get this fixed. You have until February 4th when the tax bills go out, but the sooner you fix this, the better things are.
Second: The people to call are at DCRA, who help OTR prepare the bills. You can call the Office of Vacant Property at 202.442.4332, or email firstname.lastname@example.org, and they’ll get you the paperwork.
Third: Fill out the form that they send, and don’t forget to attach proof you live there. In this case, it can be utility bills, a copy of the deed, or a copy of the rental agreement with your tenants. In addition, you’ll need to know the Square, Suffix and Lot (SSL) number for the form. If you need to look them up, you can use PIVS and your address to determine those for the paperwork.
If you’ve got any questions, DCRA has a fairly complete guide to vacant property online which you can use to answer cursory questions before you call in to DCRA.