Pierrefonds flood victims cry foul over missing tax relief

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Pierrefonds flood victims cry foul over missing tax relief

Several people in Pierrefonds say the city of Montreal hasn't delivered on a possible tax break for victims of last spring's flooding.

Itsik Romano's basement was badly damaged by water, and he's paying for much of the renovation work out of pocket.

"Winter is coming, it's really getting cold," Romano said. "We needed to get things done fast."

As he waits for more financial assistance from the province, Romano was hoping his property tax bill would be lower, based on discussions with city inspectors who looked at his damaged home on des Maçons Street.

But the December 1 tax deadline has passed, and the relief hasn't come for Romano or his neighbours.

During flooding last May, the city of Montreal pushed flood victims' deadlines to pay the second half of their property taxes to December 1.

The city also said it would send inspectors to reassess the property value of flood-damaged homes that were brought to their attention.

On its website, the city says municipal taxes "will be adjusted based on the changes in value made by the [property assessment department]."

City inspectors visited homes on des Maçons Street this summer, but Romano didn't get any updates on the value of his property — or the state of his tax bill — in the months that followed.

The first communication Romano received was a letter dated November 28, reminding them of the December 1 deadline to pay their property taxes.

Romano had to pay his tax bill in full, based on the pre-flood value of his home.

"They told us they're going to … ease up the process of us forking out more money than necessary," Romano explained. "It was great, but it was just an idea, because when it came to action, nothing happened."

In an email to CBC, a city of Montreal spokesperson said the property assessment department had to wait for Quebec's public security ministry to provide home damage estimates before it could change property values.

The statement also said that the department "did not commit itself to having property value changes completed by December 1, 2017."

Waiting on the province

But René Leblanc, a former city councillor and neighbour of Romano's, says he spoke to the director of the property assessment department on the phone this summer — and was told otherwise.

"He said, you can expect something in the region of October, November," Leblanc recounts. "But well before the first of December deadline."

Leblanc is in much the same position as the rest of his neighbours on des Maçons Street, with flood damage that nearly destroyed his six-room basement and a list of repairs piling up.

He said he followed up with the director in October, and was told the city wouldn't meet that target because they were still waiting on damage estimates from the province.

The city says many property files are now complete, and the values will be changed on the city's assessment roll in the coming days or weeks.

The city says that if these affected property owners have already payed their pre-flood value taxes, they will receive a cheque in the mail to reimburse the difference. The city didn't specify when this would be happening.