Wednesday, July 16, 2008

CRIM is Crappy...Another Tale of Mystery

Well we opened some mail and got a bill from CRIM for $450 for taxes. We thought we took care of this back in February in Mayaguez. To make a long long story shorter we bought our house in December 2007, it closed May 2007 and we moved here in October 2007. When we got here we went to Oriental Mortgage to tell them we were here permanently and they sent us to CRIM to get the property tax exemption. They sent us to the Mayaguez office (we /they didn't know there was an office in San German) and we went, bumbled through all the paperwork, got the stamps and did all the other mysterious things you need to do.

Today we took all the CRIM crap (papers with stamps and dates and exemption form certified etc) to the San German office to find out how we could be "exempt" AND owe all on the same paper! Here is the story we got: We went in February. To be exempt we had to have gone before December 31, 2007. We were here, but didn't know this and thought things would be prorated...there is kind of a language problem and some trouble figuring out how all things work (or don't) here. No no, we are stuck owing for this half year and the next (the papers Mayaguez did were for exemption for 2009 -2010). They collect taxes "ahead" of time they say so we don't really know if what we owe is for when we WEREN'T here or when we were here.

What we were told we could try to do is: Go to "triple A" (no this isn't the travel map place, it is the water authority) and ask for the "certificacion de servicio". Go to the power authority and ask for a "certificacion de servicio," sign an affidavit stating when we moved here permanently and that we do not own any other property any other place, go back to Mayaguez and wait for days to see someone who may or may not get the exemption thing correct anyway all the while accruing interest on something we don't want to pay because then we would never see any of it back!

So we went to the water place and in under 10 minutes got the certificacion de servicio showing when we started water service. I asked if we needed any "stamps" or seals or signatures or anything and supposedly we don't (we shall see). We went to the power place and it was the same thing - under 10 minutes (helpful hint is to go 15 minutes before closing?). Our diving friend David is a lawyer and hopefully we can pay him to whip up this affidavit thing and then spin the wheel of fortune at CRIM in the next couple weeks and pay up or have it fixed!

So as I am ranting I am thinking back to similar CRAP regarding property taxes in Duvall WA that weren't $450, they were over $3000 a year. When we bought our house there we had our house and the 3 lots it was on and two extra lots next door (my garden) on a separate tax number. We moved into the house in April (tax time) and tax notifications of course didn't make it to us....we had escrow and a mortgage (you figure they take care of this) and you figure these extra two lots have been there and been taxed for many years prior to us. Well the next year, at tax time I am looking at what we are paying for our "garden" and it just doesn't look right. I look at the previous year and it was the same - still looked high. After inquiring with the County I figured out that we were charged as if these lots were "build able." They weren't. So guess what - I had to find "comparables" in the city (our extra lots were not really comparable in size and zoning to much else in town), get a letter from the city planning commission saying the lot was not build able, I had to set up a court date to plead my case in front of the county to get the $ reduced. So I go though all the stuff thoughtfully, have a court date and everything and then the county decides to cut the $ amount to a reasonable (but not as low as it was) number if I sign away rights to argue it some more - a couple days before the court date! So YES I got the tax burden reduced BUT did we get reimbursed for the unlawful, incorrect amount we paid previously? Of course NOT. So I am expecting this could be the same. Wouldn't surprise me a bit but we will give it a go!

As a side note, When we decided to move here we sold our "yard" as a build able lot (rules changed) and that is what helped us get here! So in the end all the irritations work out I suppose...

But if you own something here...get your CRIM stuff organized! The banks aren't "responsible" according to CRIM. If it is your only house anywhere and you live in it you do not pay taxes. If you bought it and moved here later they will get you. Go to CRIM.


Anonymous said...

Katrina: Today I spoke to Banco Popular (our lender) about an issue with the condo taxes. In the course of the conversation, I asked at what point we could apply for the homeowner's exemption, since we don't live there yet-- it's a rental. We got into a converstion about how Puerto Ricans often have more than one house and claim the exemption on the one with the highest tax hit, whether they live in it or not, and that no one really cares. Interesting. BUT, she also told me that CRIM has a law (CRIM Law 84) that allows a homeowner to claim exemption for previous years, if the reason the homeowner hadn't claimed exemption was because they didn't know about it, and they have evidence that they lived there. (Ignorance of the law IS an excuse in PR?) Maybe you should visit CRIM with a Spanish speaker and ask for a retroactive exemption based on law 84.--Fran

Jeff and Katrina Kruse said...

Thanks Fran - We will go to CRIM when the government opens back up (in 10 days apparently) to figure out what's going on. We want to pay for the 6 months we had 2 houses and not for all the time we have been here! Rule 84 -- hope it helps!