Owners of vacant properties need property tax relief to keep the lights on – Chicago Tribune

The Chicago Tribune recently reported that Brookfield Properties is returning the keys to Water Tower Place to its lender. Why? High vacancy rate on Michigan Avenue. Online shopping that drives people away from physical retail stores. And well-known public safety concerns.

Apparently, Brookfield sees poor prospects and has decided it’s better to walk away from an iconic trophy property than to continue throwing money at evil.

This situation is not unique. Vacancy problems exist not only on Michigan Avenue, but in all neighborhoods of Chicago and the suburbs.

Demand for many physical properties is down. People are shopping online, working from home and having fun at home instead of visiting health clubs, cinemas, bowling alleys, etc. All of this leads to a growth in commercial vacancies with no end in sight.

Cook County taxes commercial property owners 2.5 times the rate it taxes everyone else. For this reason, when a commercial property becomes vacant, it can become nearly impossible for the owner to bear the resulting crushing tax burden.

If a wealthy company like Brookfield Properties can’t keep Water Tower Place, how can you expect a little guy to keep a vacant property in your neighborhood?

There are a number of issues that need to be addressed with Cook County’s property tax system. But for now, the solution is for Cook County officials who assess properties to give vacancy relief to commercial taxpayers in tax appeal cases.

Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain fair vacancy rate relief in Cook County following a steady stream of negative press regarding Cook County’s property tax system over the past few years. last years. The conditions for granting a vacation waiver have become stricter – often incredibly difficult. And the relief granted by the county assessor today is half of what it was.

Many small owners cling to their vacant properties by the fingernails. In our tax appeals practice, we deter them every day while fighting harder and harder for fair tax relief.

Commercial property owners prefer an occupied building with high property taxes and a positive cash flow to a vacant building with losses – just as a worker would rather have a job with a salary than an unemployment check.

If Brookfield Properties can’t always dip into its pocket to cover losses on Water Tower Place, how long can you expect small landowners to hang on to?

Owners of commercial property in Cook County pay some of the highest taxes in the country, and their taxes are almost triple those of the pass counties. When vacancy hits this real estate market, it can drag on and it can be difficult for building owners to persevere.

Cook County business taxpayers need affordable taxes when their properties become vacant. Without this help, many will be unable to survive, and the ranks of vacant and condemned properties will spiral out of control. And nobody wants that.

Michael Elliott is a lawyer who helps property owners with tax appeals.

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